A message to Health Canada from Airspace:
I'm guessing you don't get a lot of requests, from Canadians, urging you to watch YouTube videos. Well, welcome to your (possibly) first such request. Warning: this 18-minute video (about 1 year old now) contains some coarse language and (very brief and mild) sexual innuendo.
I would never seriously expect government health policy (specifically, in this instance, plain packaging legislation) to be based on a YouTube video or two but, after watching them -- and notwithstanding the humour -- I think you'll agree that the videos highlight just a few of Big Tobacco's immoral, unethical, sleazy and despicable tactics, globally.
Here's a 3-minute update on the previous video, from about 9 months ago.
Speaking of updates, you are no doubt aware of the recent (less than 2 months ago) victory that the tiny South American country of Uruguay (mentioned in the above videos) achieved, against all odds, over Big Tobacco. If Uruguay can do it, there's no excuse whatsoever as to why Canada -- and every other country in the world, for that matter -- can't do it! It might be too late for Canada to be the leader on the issue of plain packaging, but it's not to late to be a leader.
Article from Bloomberg View: Big Tobacco Gets Crushed by Tiny Uruguay
As Big Tobacco has so clearly demonstrated on countless occasions over the last several decades, around the world, it is truly nothing more than a corporate bully... and, as such, Big Tobacco should be completely ostracized (I sincerely hope that no tobacco executives -- nor any of their lawyers/lobbyists/other front group representatives (i.e., various and sundry convenience store associations, etc.) -- are allowed to participate in any stakeholders' meetings on this matter).
Bottom line: Please do what is ultimately best for the health and welfare of all Canadians...and ignore Big Tobacco's (really quite idle) threats, no matter how big the number that follows the dollar sign in the following headline (that I predict we'll see in global media soon), "Big Tobacco suing Canada for millions/billions/trillions!" Frankly, there is no better testament to the effectiveness of plain packaging (in terms of making smoking less "cool", less "attractive" to Big Tobacco's primary 'targets'...vulnerable teens and pre-teens, etc.) than Big Tobacco's threats to sue any/all countries which pursue plain packaging!
As Uruguay (and Australia before it) so powerfully demonstrated, Big Tobacco's bark is much bigger than its bite.
If you have any concerns whatsoever about any aspect of plain packaging legislation, please contact me or any of my more highly esteemed colleagues. In my case, I have 4 decades of volunteer international tobacco control experience behind me (I do hope that being a "volunteer" does not, in any way, make my expertise less valuable than that of paid anti-tobacco activists...in fact -- and with the utmost of respect to all of my paid colleagues -- I would hope that the opposite might actually be true).
I am NOT so naïve as to suggest that plain packaging, all by itself, is going to magically reduce the 37,000 tobacco-caused deaths -- in Canada, annually -- to zero. But I think you'll agree that, while that death toll (about 10% of whom are NON-SMOKERS, exposed to tobacco smoke in various settings) is lower than it was 20 or 30 years ago, it has 'plateaued' over the last decade or so. Plain packaging is one of the quickest and easiest ways to kick start or get the ball rolling again, in terms of reducing that horrific death toll.
Finally, I'd like to briefly address the 4 questions posed in 'section' VI of your document.
- "Are findings (regarding tobacco companies reducing prices [as a 'counter-measure' to plain packaging] to attract new customers) similar to those seen in Australia to be expected for Canada?" Well, I ain't no fortune teller, but my answer would be "yes! why not?" Furthermore, if the industry attempted to 'skirt' plain packaging by reducing prices, I would suggest that the government needs to have a plan in place in which it (government) would increase tobacco taxes by the exact same amount (or more!) that the industry reduced prices, thus rendering their price reductions null and void.
- Unfortunately, I don't have the time/energy to go into the details of this question right now, but would be happy to address it, in depth, at a later time. Suffice to say, however, that there are many fronts on which to fight the war on tobacco...most of which involve good, strong, effective, no loopholes, enforceable (and, when necessary, aggressively enforced) legislation.
- "Would these results (regarding, "Implementation could be difficult for tobacco retailers") likely be different in Canada?" Forgive me but (and with the utmost of respect), I cracked up laughing when I saw this "potential challenge". If time (in his case, a potential extra few seconds) is so valuable to either smokers or retailers, one has to wonder a) why smokers smoke and b) why retailers -- or at least, those with a conscience -- sell tobacco products.
- Of the four "potential challenges" raised in this document, this one is of greatest concern to me! You don't go into detail, but you say that, "Australia's experience has revealed that the tobacco industry continues to innovate around requirements aimed at reducing the attractiveness of both package and product." This should be setting off loud alarm bells for everyone involved in this effort! Again, you don't provide details/examples of those industry "innovations" (and I, personally, am not yet aware of them) but, if it's true, it screams, "No loopholes! Any and all tobacco control legislation must be extremely comprehensive... airtight, watertight, no loopholes whatsoever!!! If/when that is achieved, then there is no opportunity whatsoever to 'innovate'." And, on that note, I hereby offer my services... to assist you in any way possible/necessary, in drafting/proof-reading/amending such "no loopholes" legislation... and to provide ideas regarding implementation, enforcement, etc.
Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to contribute to this extremely important discussion.
Errol E. Povah
President, AIRSPACE Action on Smoking and Health