On June 25th, Canada’s Federal Department of Health published draft regulations outlining new packaging requirements for all tobacco products sold in Canada. These new requirements include traditional cigars. As proposed, these regulations will cause unnecessary harm and injury to independently owned and operated cigar stores and their suppliers across Canada.
Our industry is not the big tobacco companies that produce cigarettes. Our industry, specialty tobacco products, is made up of cigar stores that are small, family-owned businesses. We sell these handmade products, crafted by women and men in the developing world, to adults here in Canada. Health Canada acknowledges that if the proposed regulations are implemented more than fifty percent of the cigars currently available in Canada will disappear from our shelves. Since Health Canada does not distinguish between machine made and hand rolled cigars, we estimate that up to 75% of premium cigar manufacturers will be unable to comply with the new rules due to cost. Thus, cigar stores will lose most of the cigar and pipe tobacco inventory currently on offer to consumers.
Traditional cigars account for less than 1% of the tobacco products sold in Canada but are almost 100% of the business of Canada’s cigar shops. This new legislation, if passed without an exemption for specialty tobacco products, will cause unnecessary job losses in Canada, and in the small factories making these products in Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
There is a better way to address the issues surrounding plain packaging for cigars: it is the Better Cigar Plan. The Better Cigar Plan achieves the aims of Health Canada’s regulations while insuring collateral damage to the traditional cigar industry is entirely avoided.
The Better Cigar Plan adopts the British model for plain packaging. The Better Cigar Plan would ask that specialty tobacco products be exempt from the regulations being drafted. Britain (as well as France, Belgium and Norway) exempted traditional cigars from plain packaging because they realized that cigars have no appeal to youth. In doing so, health authorities in Britain managed to enforce Plain and Standardized Packaging on 99% of their tobacco market without causing unnecessary harm to the cigar industry in the UK. We aim to achieve the same, insuring that small family-run enterprises across Canada would be spared the disastrous effects of these regulations.
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