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December, 2016:

Flavoured tobacco ban looms

Menthol cigarettes, along with most other flavoured tobacco products, will no longer legally be sold in Ontario starting in the New Year.

Changes to the Smoke Free Ontario Act will result in the sale of clove cigarettes and most menthol-flavoured tobacco products being banned as of Jan. 1.

Klaus Larsen, a tobacco enforcement officer with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, said the ban is the latest step in the province’s crackdown on flavoured tobacco products.

“What statistics show is that young people are drawn to flavours,” Larsen said.

“What menthol does is cover the harsh flavour of tobacco products so we’re seeing it’s popular among those under the age of 25 and the ban will steer away the younger population from tobacco products.”

The first ban began last year on New Year’s Day and covered all flavoured tobacco products except for some flavoured cigars and a temporary one-year exemption for menthol and clove flavoured products, which is now expiring.

Larsen said the health unit has inspected vendors and have not found any compliance issues.

“The retailers tell us they’re still getting requests for the tobacco products and often times when the flavoured tobacco products are not available the customer will walk away from purchasing any tobacco product,” Larsen said.

One concern is more people switching to vaping, or e-cigarettes, to use flavoured products.

Larsen compared the current state of the vaping industry to “big tobacco” before governments began implementing regulations and restrictions.

“I think what’s been proven statistically is that vaping is less harmful than smoking but you have to remember that less harmful does not mean harmless,” he said.

“The other thing you have to remember is the fact that we don’t know what the long-term effect is of vaping.”

Oman health: Hike cigarette tax to cut down on smoking, says official

MUSCAT: Cigarettes prices should be doubled in Oman so they remain out of reach for most people, a senior official at the Ministry of Health said.

“A pack of cigarettes, which now costs OMR1, should be made OMR2, or more, so that people will think twice before buying them. And from the extra tax money we can build a hospital every year,” said Dr Jawad Al Lawati, senior consultant and rapporteur for the National Tobacco Control Committee at the Ministry of Health (MoH), speaking to Times of Oman.

Talking about his wishes for 2017, Dr Al Lawati said that tobacco taxes should be increased so cigarettes remain out of reach for most people.

About 14 per cent of Oman’s male population smokes, while 0.5 per cent of women smoke.

In September, Oman raised the tax on tobacco products from 20 per cent to 40 per cent, a 100 per cent increase aimed at reducing smoking in the Sultanate.

The cost for cigarettes rose from OMR1 for a pack to OMR1.2. The tax on tobacco products was raised for the first time in 17 years.

The higher tax on tobacco was announced after Bahrain raised its tax in January and Saudi Arabia in March 2016. Citing records, officials also said 60 per cent of all deaths in Oman are caused by non-communicable diseases, such as cardio-vascular conditions, including coronary heart disease and cancers.

Earlier, Majlis Al Shura members had requested the government to carry out a proposal prepared by the Ministry of Health to impose taxes on tobacco. “We have to raise prices so that they remain beyond the reach of children,” one of them said, noting that countries that had previously raised taxes on tobacco have been able to significantly reduce the impact of tobacco use.

“We hope that the price of a pack [of cigarettes] will be higher, and rise to a level that can help reduce consumption,” he said. The comparative prices of a pack of Marlboro Red cigarettes are: Saudi Arabia –SAR12, Oman –OMR1.2, Bahrain–BHD1.3, Qatar – QAR10, UAE – AED10, Kuwait – KWD0.75 – Source: Cost of Living

NDP give update on tobacco industry lawsuit

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley says the NDP government is pleased with the progress being made on its legal action against the tobacco industry, though any resolution to the case is likely years away.

In 2012, the former Progressive Conservative government filed suit against 14 Canadian and international tobacco firms, seeking $10 billion to recover smoking-related health costs.

The process around the Tory government’s decision to hire the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers consortium as counsel on the case remains mired in controversy and under review, but Ganley said that the NDP is satisfied with the work done by the firm so far.

“The quality of the work itself has been very good,” she said in a recent interview.

“So at this point it would cause further delay and be quite costly to change counsel at this point. And so I don’t think it would be in the best interest of taxpayers to do that.”

British Columbia’s conflict of interest commissioner, Paul Fraser, is currently reviewing the actions of former premier Alison Redford in relation to questions of potential conflict of interest around her awarding of the tobacco lawsuit legal contract as justice minister in 2010. A key part of the consortium is Calgary-based JSS Barristers, a firm where her ex-husband is a partner.

Redford was cleared by then-ethics commissioner Neil Wilkinson when the matter was investigated in 2013, but a report this spring from former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci cited concerns that Wilkinson didn’t have all the relevant information. He recommended Alberta’s ethics commissioner take another look but a potential conflict led to the appointment of B.C.’s commissioner.

Ganley said she couldn’t comment on how that report may ultimately affect the government’s legal action against the tobacco companies but reiterated the NDP’s support for the case.

“We do believe in the merits and the cause of the case and I think it’s potentially worth an enormous amount of money to the taxpayers of Alberta, so it’s definitely worth pursuing,” she said.

Among the allegations in the government’s lawsuit, none of which have been proven in court, is that the companies deliberately designed tobacco products to be highly addictive, deceived Albertans by minimizing the products’ addictiveness and harm, and falsely denied the health risks of exposure to tobacco products.

Ganley said the defendants in the case filed statements of defence in the spring.

The next step will be the exchange of documents, then the questioning phase.

“These things typically take a while,” said Ganley.

“There’s going to be an enormous amount of documents.”

It has been slow going for legal action against the tobacco industry by Canadian provinces since British Columbia filed the first lawsuit in 1998, said Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society in Ottawa.

There are 12 provinces and territories that have enabling legislation allowing them to launch lawsuits and 10 have legal action already underway.

“There are no trial dates set for any of the cases. The cases that are the most advanced it seems are B.C. and New Brunswick, in terms of the pre-trial discovery process,” said Cunningham, noting that he has no indication the controversy around Alberta’s legal contract has affected its case.

“It’s incumbent for provincial governments to get these cases to trial.”

In 1999, the U.S. tobacco industry settled with 46 U.S. states by agreeing to pay almost $250 billion over 25 years. That deal featured restrictions on how tobacco products were marketed and sold.

Cunningham said a case to watch in Canada is a Quebec class action lawsuit that awarded C$15.5 billion in damages to plaintiffs from tobacco companies.

The case was appealed and heard at the Quebec Court of Appeal in November, with a decision expected in 2017.

Cunningham noted many of the same documents and issues that were in play in the class action trial will be at issue in the provincial cases.

“The Quebec case demonstrates overwhelmingly the tobacco industry can be beaten,” he said.

4 Tobacco Stats That Will Blow You Away

Investors in Altria Group (NYSE: MO) , Reynolds American (NYSE: RAI) , and other tobacco companies around the world understand the risks inherent in investing in the industry. Cigarettes have been demonstrated to have negative health impacts, and even big tobacco companies like Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM) have started to respond to these potential harms by looking at alternatives to traditional cigarettes that carry reduced risks for consumers.

When you look at the numbers that government agencies, consumer advocates, and other anti-smoking groups provide, it’s easier to understand some of the challenges that cigarette makers face in sustaining their businesses. Let’s look at four particularly noteworthy statistics.

1. Potential international growth of 45% in two decades

Even advocates who are trying to stamp out smoking admit that they’re losing ground on a global scale. There are about 1.1 billion smokers in the world currently, according to the nonprofit group Action on Smoking & Health, and that number is expected to grow to 1.6 billion over the next 20 years.

In part, those numbers reflect the sluggish pace of regulation in areas where smoking is most likely to rise. Only a small fraction of countries have provisions like smoke-free laws, government services to support those seeking to quit smoking, and bans on advertising on tobacco products that are most likely to keep smoking rates down. As a result, those tobacco companies focusing on the international market have plenty of potential for growth.

2. Cigarette smoking kills 480,000 Americans annually

Tobacco use has long been the single largest preventable cause of death in the U.S., according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates that more than 480,000 Americans die each year from smoking, with 41,000 of those deaths coming from the effects of secondhand smoke.

Most people think of lung cancer as the key cause of death related to smoking, but the practice has been linked to a host of other diseases — including respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes — and other adverse health effects. Government health advocates are convinced that the costs of encouraging smoking cessation are worth the savings those efforts produce.

3. The staggering economic costs of smoking

In addition to the number of deaths, the amount of money and resources that goes toward caring for those with smoking-related illnesses is surprisingly high. The CDC estimates that the direct costs of medical care in the U.S. for adults who need it because of tobacco products add up to almost $170 billion annually. In addition, lost productivity from workers who take time off due to smoking-related ailments brings the total cost above the $300 billion mark.

Smoking is a big enough cause of economic damage that the insurance industry makes smoking one of the key factors in determining premiums for life insurance.

Moreover, the difficulty of quitting smoking makes cessation products an extremely lucrative market, adding to potential revenue for businesses related to the practice.

4. Tobacco is still big business, despite downward pressures

Even with falling smoking volume in the U.S., the sheer amount of tobacco in the market is impressive. More than 24 billion cigarettes were produced in the U.S. market in October, the most recent month for which data from the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau were available. So far in 2016, 233 billion cigarettes have been produced, along with almost 5.4 billion cigars, 100 million pounds of snuff, and roughly 50 million pounds of tobacco for chewing, pipe, or roll-your-own use.

Believe it or not, those figures are actually down considerably from year-ago figures. Cigarette use has dropped by about 10 billion units this year compared to this time last year; although smaller cigars have seen volumes rise, the bigger large-cigar market has seen drops of nearly 10%. That has resulted in sales-volume declines among large producers, but their ability to succeed speaks to the experience they have fighting such trends.

Tobacco companies have managed to overcome statistics like these and still produce growing profits over time. However, given the severity of some of these numbers, it’s understandable why even industry stalwarts are looking closely at reduced-risk alternatives in an effort to try to put some of these statistics behind them once and for all.

How to quit smoking – and stay cigarette free for good

As January arrives, a significant proportion of the population will make belated resolutions to finally quit smoking

The party season is over, and there’s no longer an excuse to drink a week’s allowance of alcohol in one day, while merrily puffing your way through a 20-pack.

A cheeky drag outside a party doesn’t exactly fit in with the yoga and Nutribullet smoothies lifestyle you’ve sworn to follow this January either.

Quitting smoking is one of the most easily broken New Year’s resolutions.

But quitting smoking is one of the most easily broken resolutions – it only takes a stressful day at work (or the thought of going back to work at all) to feel the need for a nicotine fix.

So if you really want to pack in the smokes, what’s the best way to go about it? Here is everything you need to know about the numbers, no-nos and reality of breathing clean this year.

Number crunching

Around 10 million adults in the UK smoke – but only 30-40% of them try to quit every year.In Great Britain 22% of adult men and 17% of adult women are smokers The highest number of smokers is in the 25-34 age group (25%); the lowest is among those aged 60 and over (11%).

The scary stats are that half of all smokers are eventually killed by their addiction from smoking-related causes. Not to mention that smoking is the cause of over one third of respiratory deaths, over one quarter of cancer deaths, and about one-seventh of cardiovascular disease deaths.

A drink with a cigarette significantly increases your chance of mouth cancer.

Plus, having a drink with a cigarette increases your chance of getting mouth cancer by 38 times. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

The science

People enjoy smoking because of two things: the physical addiction and the psychological habit. While smokers get hooked on the temporary high caused by nicotine in the bloodstream, the habit also becomes part of a daily ritual – a crutch to return to when stressed or in social situations – and an automatic response when taking a break from work.

The best ways to quit

Don’t go cold turkey

Going cold turkey may suit some, but the shock of withdrawal for others makes them more likely to reach for a cigarette sooner. The best thing to do is make a plan that addresses the short-term challenges of quitting smoking as well as preventing relapse later on.

Short-term solutions might include using nicotine gum or inhalers, or e-cigarettes, which have recently been approved by British drug regulators to be sold as a medicine for quitting smoking. The e-Voke cigarette can now be prescribed on the NHS.

Choose a quit date

Choose a definitive day to bin the smokes and make sure no cigarettes, lighters or papers are within eyesight. Pick a day that won’t involve going to places like the pub so that all temptation can be avoided.

Tell your friends, tell your families

Tell everyone from Harry in accounts to your grandma that you’ve quit smoking; that way, the shame of relapsing will be magnified as you imagine your child’s face when you tell them you’ve fallen off the wagon. Having a quit buddy will also help – a friend who packs the cigs in at the same time as you, with whom you can commiserate and whom you can encourage.

Notice when you crave cigarettes

A cigarette craving usually lasts around five minutes, according to the NHS. Before you decide to quit, make a list of five minute strategies that will distract you from the craving. It could be having a healthy snack, using a nicotine replacement or offering to get people drinks at the bar.

Calculate how much money you’ll save

One of the best perks of giving up smoking, beside the health benefits, is the enormous amount of money you’ll save.

If you smoke 10 a day, after one month of giving up you’ll have saved a minimum of £46, and after six months you’ll have banked £275. That money can go towards a nice meal or a new wardrobe rather than the gradual corrosion of your lung tissue.

Avoid other smokers

Tell your friends who smoke not to smoke around you or offer you a cigarette. It might be tough feeling like the loser at a party but you’ll feel good at the end of the night having notched up another smoke-free day.

What to expect after you quit

After 20 minutes… 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate will drop down to normal levels.

After 24 hours… Smokers are 70% more likely to get a heart attack than non-smokers, but after a full day of not smoking your risk of heart attack will begin to drop.

After two days… Smoking deadens the taste buds on your tongue, but 48 hours after you quit smoking, your nerve endings will begin to regrow and your sense of taste will be enhanced.

After three days… Three days is the magical point where all the nicotine will leave your body. This means your cravings will peak at this point and you may experience physical symptoms like headaches and nausea. But this just means it’s working!

After one week… Nicotine cravings will still be intense during the first week. But cravings don’t last long, so distract yourself and then they will pass quickly. Finding an oral substitute helps, so chew on mints or celery to alleviate the itch to smoke.

After two weeks… Your lung function will improve significantly and you will breathe more easily as your lungs start to clear. You’ll be able to do exercise without feeling winded and sick.

One to nine months after you quit… After about a month, your lungs will begin to repair. The cilia inside them (tiny hair-like cells that push mucus out) will start to function properly again and do their job more efficiently, preventing you from infection and dramatically decreasing any coughing.

One year after you quit… A landmark. Your risk of heart disease will go down by fifty per cent, meaning you have the same risk factor as a non smoker

WHO commends Shenzhen’s move to create 100% smoke-free environment

The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulates the government and the people of Shenzhen for their commitment to strengthen the city’s tobacco control laws. Starting on 1 January 2017, Shenzhen will offer all of its citizens and visitors a 100% smoke-free environment in all indoor public places.

“Shenzhen will join a growing list of cities around the world where smoking in indoor public venues is completely prohibited, without exception. A 100% smoke-free law is the only way to protect the people and visitors to this city from the toxic harms of second-hand smoke. There is no other way: there is simply no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke,” said Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, WHO Representative in China.

The Shenzhen smoke-free law is a model law, fully compliant with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The law was adopted in October 2013 as the first comprehensive smoke-free law to be passed in China However, a grace period was given to certain entertainment and leisure venues to fully comply with the law. That grace period will now end on 31 December 2016.

The smoking ban will also cover outdoor areas of schools, educational and healthcare facilities, parks, stadiums and fitness clubs. In addition, tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship are also completely banned.

The law includes strong penalties and enforcement is closely coordinated between eight government departments and agencies. The challenge now will be to ensure that inspectors have the resources they need and are granted complete access to obtain evidence of violations, and that penalties are consistently imposed.

Similar to Beijing and Shanghai, results from a survey done in Shenzhen show there is strong support for a comprehensive smoke free law among the general public. In addition, the Shenzhen survey also revealed high levels of support from owners and managers of public venues.

“Three of China’s four first tier cities will now have comprehensive smoke-free laws, fully in line with the WHO Tobacco Framework Convention.. These cities, covering a population of more than 60 million, are exemplifying leadership and setting the scene for what is our ultimate goal – a national 100% smoke-free law which gives the same protection to all citizens in China, wherever they live,” said Dr Schwartländer.

A draft national smoke-free law is currently being debated at the State Council. With more than 300 million smokers, China has by far the largest number of smokers worldwide. Every year, 1 million smokers die of tobacco related diseases, and 100,000 Chinese non-smokers are dying of the consequences of being exposed to second hand smoke.

“Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai are showing the way by going completely smoke free, covering all indoor and many outdoor public places. We know that it works and how it can be done. It is now time to move an equally strong national smoke free law to make sure that all Chinese can benefit from the same level of protection against the deadly exposure of second hand smoke”, said Dr Schwartländer. “A Healthy China is a smoke free China”.

“Shenzhen has given the people of the city the most precious year-end gift it could possibly give – the gift of clean indoor air, of health, and of life. I cannot think of a better way to start the new year of 2017,” said Dr Schwartländer.

About the World Health Organization

WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

For more information please contact:

Ms WU Linlin
Office Tel: +86 10 6532 7191

Beijing public smoking ban sees significant effect

A newly released report shows Beijing has seen a significant drop in the number of smokers by 200 thousand since the city brought in a strict smoking ban less than two years ago, The Paper reports.

According to a report on tobacco use among adults, the smoking rate this year went down to 22.3 percent, compared with 23.4 percent in 2014, even though only about 30 percent of adults were said to understand the serious risks to disease caused by smoking.

The report also indicates that 16.8 percent of adults attempted to quit smoking this year, an increase of 1.9 percent compared with 2014.

Meanwhile, the report also shows that smoking in public spaces and second-hand smoking indoors has also been declining.

An earlier report shows that Beijing has established the most transparent law-enforcement system for smoking control in the country, with over 1,400 people among every 10,000 receiving smoking-quit services.

E-cig patent lawsuits heading to mediation

One set of patent-infringement lawsuits addressing electronic cigarette technology is heading to mediation, according to legal filings Thursday.

Fontem Ventures BV and Fontem Holdings BV, owned by Imperial Brands Plc of England, is suing NuMark LLC, a subsidiary of Altria Group Inc. of Richmond. NuMark has filed a counter suit.

Fontem and NuMark have chosen Lex Brainerd of San Francisco as the mediator.

Fontem has filed at least three similar lawsuits against R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., which makes top-selling e-cig Vuse.

In a separate filing Thursday, Reynolds Vapor Co. and the Fontem companies have asked to have until Jan. 12 to agree on a mediator.

Other leading U.S. e-cig companies sued by Fontem include: ITG Brands LLC, which makes blu eCigs; NJoy Inc., Ballantyne Brands LLC of Charlotte, maker of the Mistic brand; and Vapor Corp.

A federal judge in the Central Circuit of California agreed Aug. 8 to R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co.’s request to transfer the lawsuits to the Middle District of North Carolina so that the cases can be heard closer to the defendants. The transfer was completed Oct. 26.

Reynolds Vapor manufactures Vuse, which owns a 37.3 percent market share, at its Tobaccoville plant.

The Fontem companies are suing for what they call unlawful use of seven patented technologies. They focus their claims on patents for rechargeable e-cigs, cartridge refill packs, batteries and disposable e-cigs. Fontem said it obtained patents on its technology in February 2013.

Reynolds claims it has developed internal e-cig technology.

Fontem accuses Reynolds of patent infringement in its Vuse solo rechargeable digital vapor cigarettes and its Connect power units.

For example, Fontem repeats the legal accusation it made against Lorillard Inc. that Reynolds Vapor is in infringement with its cartridge technology, in particular when it says it does not allow another e-cig product to be used with Vuse products.

Fontem is suing for an undisclosed amount of damages because of “irreparable harm” done to the companies, including lost market share and lost profits on infringing sales.

Altogether, the Fontem companies have been a party in 89 complaints just in the Central Circuit court, including 15 that are open. The filings began March 5, 2014, with undisclosed settlements reached in some lawsuits.

Smoking out Canada’s Indigenous cowboys

Cigarettes produced on Canada’s native reserves are at the heart of ‘multinational’ smuggling

With Donald Trump only weeks away from his inauguration, talk of walls along the Mexican border have – for the moment at least – fallen from the agenda. But another border is fast becoming a problem.

The 3,000-mile frontier with Canada has seen smuggling involving organised crime develop on a potentially global scale, with both governments apparently powerless to do anything about it.

The smugglers’ commodity is tobacco, mostly ready-rolled cigarettes, boxed and branded but untaxed, uncontrolled, and being sold at barely one third of the legal price, particularly in Canada where taxes are higher – and often to schoolchildren.

The problem has been growing since it took off in 2008. The Canadian government claims to have seized to date 252 million contraband cigarettes and 4.3 million untaxed cigars, but reckons that represents just the tip of the illegal tobacco mountain.

Canada is due to legalise cannabis totally next year and there are hopes that a “pot tax” could replace some duty lost to contraband cigarettes, but also fears that excessive tax would end up with the same situation as now pertains with tobacco, involving the same players.

In March 2016 a mammoth cross-border operation involving some 700 US and Canadian police and customs officials seized C$4m (£2.5m) in cash and 5,200kg of smuggled tobacco worth C$13.5m (£8m).

Six months later, Sylvain Éthier, 41 – among those arrested and still awaiting trial – was shot dead outside his home near Montreal by a member of one of the biker gangs believed to be facilitating the smuggling operations.

But the reason this formidable and growing racket has not been stamped out by either the US or Canada is that there are more than two nations involved.

In theory at least, there are several hundred, scattered all across North America, even if some of them number no more than a few thousand individuals. In Canada they call them First Nations; in the US, Native Americans.

Following centuries of maltreatment and under-representation, both the US and Canada nowadays recognise their “reservations” – usually no bigger than villages – as sovereign territory with their own internal laws and “peacekeeper” police forces. But for the Indigenous community it is all too little, too late. They consider themselves to have been lied to and robbed for more than 250 years, despite supposedly legal treaties signed, over time, with British, French and US governments.

They insist they never sold off their land, but were robbed of vast areas by unscrupulous “Indigenous agents”. And, over the past decades, even as their cause became recognised, they have become more militant, demanding compensation and an end to encroachment.

The first major incident occurred in July 1990 when the mayor of Oka, a small town near Montreal, began felling trees to expand a nine-hole golf course to 18 holes and develop an apartment block nearby.

The local Mohawk tribe were outraged, claiming the development infringed on their land. They blocked access and set up barricades, and police armed with tear gas and stun grenades inflamed the situation. One policeman was killed, while the rest retreated, leaving behind bulldozers and patrol cars.

The situation escalated over several weeks, with “natives” from all over North America rallying to the Mohawks’ support, until at one stage there was an army of 600 armed men defending the territory and blocking a bridge over the Saint Lawrence river into Montreal.

The “Oka Crisis”, as it has gone down in Canadian history, lasted nearly two months and ended with a climbdown by the authorities and advice to police forces to go softly on “Indian” relations.

Spool forward three years, to the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (a target very much in Trump’s sights), and many of North America’s big tobacco companies relocated their manufacturing plants to Mexico’s cheap labour market.

The result? Members of the Indigenous community acquired their equipment cheaply and went into the business themselves, setting up factories on the reservations, theoretically not subject to US or Canadian domestic law. The theory was that the cigarettes could only legally be bought by reservation-dwellers; the result was a contraband explosion.

The most visible evidence of the native tobacco revolution has been the mushrooming of “smoke shacks” along the roads and in the village centres of almost every reserve, selling packs of home-made cigarettes at less than a quarter of the price of big brands, and unbranded loose bags of 200 for substantially less.

Drive into Kahnawake, a small territory lying in the shadow of Montreal just across the Saint Lawrence, and every corner has its own: Red Man Smoke Shop, Mighty Iroquois Tobacco, Totem Pole Smokes, proclaiming “Meilleur qualité, meilleur prix” [best quality, best price], and offering the vast multiplicity of “native”’ brands: Tomahawk, Deerfield, Fleur de Lys, Canadian Goose, Putters and dozens more.

And then there are the “baggies”, which offer 200 smokes for just C$10 (£6) as opposed to the C$80-90 for well-known brands bought in an ordinary Canadian corner shop. Officially the “natives” are not supposed to sell to outsiders, but in practise it is impossible to enforce.

On the road into Kahnawake, a small town of some 8,000 people, I watched a portly white Canadian couple in their 60s load 20 baggies into the boot of their car: 4,000 cigarettes for the price of 400. They may be for private use, they may be being sold on in places much further away.

Anti-smoking campaigners say baggies are regularly to be seen on sale near schools even though the legal age to buy cigarettes is 18. They also insist the Indigenous are harming themselves: on average just 18.2 per cent of Canadians smoke; among the aboriginal population that rises to 56 per cent.

But ask any of the mostly Mohawk inhabitants of Kahnawake and they will tell you that the tobacco industry that has mushroomed on the “reserves” provides much-needed jobs and a major source of local wealth and investment for often relatively poor communities. “Anyway, tobacco is part of our culture,” says Linsey, a girl behind the counter at a smoke shack on the road into town.

The tribes, after all, have been smoking, chewing and cultivating the stuff since the Stone Age. And the anti-smoking lobby accepts the cultural importance of “sacred tobacco” to the natives of North America. But it tries to insist that the traditional use of tobacco in healing and prayer rituals did not involve inhalation.

It is an argument that might be labelled the “Bill Clinton approach”, since most historians acknowledge that in many tribes it was customary to try to inhale deeply and hold the smoke in an attempt to increase the narcotic effect. No plant ever became sacred by people doing nothing with it.

As for the factories, they are mostly discreetly located down back roads on the reserves, often in unmarked barns. Their owners and employees are not exactly garrulous. I asked for an interview with someone at Rainbow Tobacco in Kahnawake and was politely laughed aside: “You gotta be kidding.”

The reason for their lack of enthusiasm for publicity is that the smoke shacks that provide the basis of a living for many locals are barely the tip of the iceberg. Although the cigarettes may not legally be sold off-reserve, the producers insist on their right to transport them between First Nation communities, particularly out west.

Rainbow has fought legal battles against the governments of the western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta for confiscating cigarettes they insist were either sent “as gifts” or bore the proper stamps to show they had government duty paid. Not that all the tobacco is Canadian grown.

The tobacco belt of south-western Ontario was a motor of prosperity in the mid-20th century, having helped Canada out of the depression in the late 1920s, but in recent decades the crop has been discouraged and the government has bought out some farmers. The remainder are grateful for the native industry, which takes all it can get and then some.

Between 2014 and the summer of 2016, the Canadian government estimates that 2,081 tonnes of tobacco worth some C$530m (£300m) was imported illegally, much but not all of it from the US, but all headed for the cigarette manufacturing plants on the First Nations reserves.

Grand River Enterprises (GRE), by far the largest of the native cigarette companies, has line after line of grey warehouses and manufacturing sheds adorned with a picture of an Indigenous chief in traditional feathered war bonnet, on either side of the northern end of Chiefwood Road in the Six Nations reserve in south Ontario.

Fully licensed by the Canadian government as a tobacco producer, GRE insists that it abides by all regulations, though some former law enforcement officers say it is hard to police exactly how strictly it complies with the rules in a factory technically located outside Canadian-controlled territory, even though it pays large sums in tax to Ottowa.

Its Mohawk founders have faced allegations ranging from large-scale smuggling in the 1990s to links last year with large-scale cannabis cultivation on Native American lands in northern California, although no formal charges have been brought.

One thing is certain: GRE has grown astronomically over 20 years, from a tiny two-man business to a company with more than 1,000 native employees and a business empire worth tens of millions, including a factory in eastern Germany, opened in 2004, which now produces billions of cigarettes a year for discount supermarkets in Europe.

GRE funds local services in its home territory, the Six Nations’ small town of Ohsweken, its very name proclaiming its native origins in an area where nearby towns are London, Cambridge, Woodstock and Kitchener. First Nation lobby groups insist on their right to move their products freely between their widely scattered territories.

The question is, how many go astray en route. According to Canada’s Frontline Safety and Security magazine, the profit to be made from a single tractor-trailerload of native-produced cigarettes resold at half the commercial shop price could bring in an illicit profit of nearly C$2.5m and a loss to Ottawa’s revenue of nearly double that.

The incentive is therefore enormous. But the roadside smoke shack sellers shrug and say that the government is really only interested in lost tax revenue and cares no more about the native communities than it ever did. And the irony, now, is that the colonial authorities’ historic dismissal of the rights of natives to “their own land” is being used against them in the cross-border smuggling business.

The border situation near the town of Cornwall in southern Ontario is one of the most complicated in the world, involving the US, two Canadian provinces – Quebec and Ontario, with different police forces and different jurisdictions – plus a large area of Akwesasne Mohawk land, which extends across all three of them.

Akwesasne Mohawks legally recognise but do not in practise accept the frontier running through their lands. There are no border controls on the southern mainland: they can walk or drive freely from their territory in Canada to their territory in the US.

But they can only get back to the Canadian mainland by crossing the invisible border to the non-Akwesasne US, then over a bridge and through customs control into Canada.

There is, of course, an easy alternative: a boat. The river here is a sportsman’s paradise. Most people here live on the river, have jetties and small boats. Most crossings are within Canadian territory. They are also within Akwesasne territory – as are those to the US. It is not just a paradise for sportsmen, but smugglers too.

There is no imminent end to the impasse. Not least because, whatever the native producers say, tax collection is not the only motive. Canada is rapidly acquiring a reputation as one of the world’s most interfering nanny states. On the exterior walls of the Ramada Inn in Cornwall signs warn “No Smoking within 30ft of the hotel”. Back in 2001 Canada became the first country to insist on gory health warnings covering 50 per cent of the front and rear of cigarette packs.

The theoretical fine for possessing anything from one pack of “native” cigarettes is a minimum of C$100 (£60) plus three times the tax, though in areas around the reserves small-scale smuggling is so common it is rarely enforced.

Now the anti-smoking lobby is pressing for totally plain packaging, which would completely obliterate the branding. The irony is that by so doing they would be playing directly into the hands of the native cigarette manufacturers, who could still sell their brightly coloured packets on the reserves.

Darryl, the Scottish-born landlord of the Glengarrian pub in Cornwall, told me he would regularly spend C$16 on a packet of Matinée cigarettes for his wife, but for himself he often made do with native cigarettes. And he had a favourite brand: Putters, recognised by most smokers as a rip-off of popular big brand Players: “They’re not quite as good as the real thing, but they’re not bad, and they’re cheap.”

Cheaper still are the bêtes noires of the anti-smoking lobby: the “baggies” selling out there in the reserves – and later in the schoolyards – at the price of a Pokemon Go starter pack for 200 random cigarettes in a clear plastic bag: the ultimate plain packaging.

This would be an odd way to make the illegal trade more transparent. But there is no sign of a peace pipe being smoked any time soon.

Children design cigarette packets as part of latest stop smoking campaign


Children front latest stop smoking campaign Credit: Public Health England

Primary school children have created their own “plain packaging” for cigarette packs ahead of the official roll-out of standardised packets in 2017.

The youngsters devised their own front-of-pack messages encouraging England’s seven million smokers to quit.

One child’s artwork says: “Don’t be a smoker – be a stopper.”

The children are featured in Public Health England’s (PHE) new campaign to highlight the damaging effect smoking has on the heart.

PHE said that every day 45 people die of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks or strokes caused by smoking – more than 16,500 a year in England.

In the North East 18.7 per cent of people are smokers Standardised packaging will be mandatory from May 2017.

Cigarettes will be sold in packs which feature a graphic picture and text health warnings.

Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: “If you smoke, quitting not only means an instant pay rise but also reduces your chances of a serious disease within days of stopping.

Children worry about their parents and grandparents smoking and quitting is likely to make your family very proud.

“This year there is another reason to quit at New Year, as more and more packs of cigarettes will be in plain standardised packaging with larger health warnings. Every cigarette is a stark reminder of the damage smoking causes.”

Dr John Bourke, Consultant Cardiologist at Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust and Cardiac Lead for the NorthernEngland Cardiovascular Network, added:

“Cigarette smoking is the single most important and avoidable risk factor for death at a young age in both men and women in the UK.

“Smoking speed up the ageing process in blood vessels throughout the body – causing heart attacks,leg amputations and strokes. In short, cigarette smoking accelerates the ageing process making your body older at every age than you actually should be.”

Cigarette smoking is the single most important and avoidable risk factor for death at a young age in both men and women in the UK.

Smokers looking to quit are being encouraged to search ‘Smokefree’ online or contact their local Stop Smoking Service.