March 6, 2001
hand-out to tobacco farmers:
March 6, 2001 (Ottawa). Canadian health agencies today called on the governments of Canada and Ontario to turn down the request by the Ontario Flue Cured Tobacco Marketing Board (OFCTGMB) for public financing of tobacco curing kilns.
"The tobacco industry is trying to sucker government into paying half the cost of its latest marketing gimmick,” said David Sweanor, Senior Legal Counsel of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association “They’re trying to play off health departments against agriculture departments and turn both levels of governments into hypocrites.”
In late January, the OFCTGMB proposed to the federal and provincial government that they provide $20 million each to offset the anticipated $80 million cost of converting their tobacco curing kilns to meet new specifications required by cigarette manufacturers. This request comes at a time where the issue of farm aid to not profitable farming sectors is the centre of controversy. The manufacturers have requested that farmers stop exposing tobacco to the exhaust gases of the kiln furnaces, as these gases increase the amount of nitrosamines formed in the cigarette smoke.
“Even the tobacco companies who are pushing for this change admit there is no evidence of public health benefit of reducing nitrosamines in tobacco,” said Neil Collishaw, Research Director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. On February 12, the Simcoe Reformer quoted CTMC president Robert Parker as saying that there was no evidence that low nitrosamine levels in tobacco produces less of a health risk. “In these circumstances, the government should be investing in and basing health decisions on science, not the politics of farm subsidies," said Mr. Collishaw.
Public money is neither needed nor appropriate to retrofit these kilns," said Elisabeth Ostiguy, Campaign Coordinator for the Canadian Cancer Society. "If the tobacco companies want changes made by the farmers, they can most certainly afford to pay for the costs. " The total cost of converting the kilns could be recouped by increasing the price of each package of cigarettes by less than 1 cent for four years. Tobacco companies make approximately $1 billion in profits in Canada each year, more than double their profit of a decade ago.
“The tobacco industry is awash in money. We need to spend public money to bring the tobacco epidemic to an end, not to perpetuate it,” said Ms. Ostiguy. “Right now, the federal and Ontario governments combined spend a total of $39 million on controlling tobacco, less than the government handout that the tobacco industry is seeking to perpetuate the tobacco epidemic,” she continued. “If we are going to spend more public money on the tobacco problem, let’s spend money to save lives, not shorten them,” she concluded.
Tobacco growers have claimed that the viability of the Canadian tobacco growing industry is threatened if governments do not contribute $40 million to a kiln conversion program, a claim contested by the health groups. Tobacco growers earn among the highest profits in the agricultural sector. In the United States, where a similar conversion is underway, the costs are being carried entirely by tobacco manufacturers and tobacco growers.