News releases

March 31, 2004

Doctors ask Bob Speller to fairly compensate tobacco farmers and phase out tobacco growing in Canada by 2010

Ottawa - Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC) sent a letter to Canada's Agriculture Minister, Bob Speller, proposing to him that tobacco growing in Canada by completely phased out by 2010.  Key features of the proposal are:

  • The program will quickly phase out all tobacco growing in Canada in an orderly, effective and fair manner.

  • The entire cost of the program will be borne by tobacco companies, either by direct voluntary payments or through a government-run program, the cost of which is entirely offset by revenue from new taxes on tobacco.  Either way, there will be no net cost to taxpayers for the tobacco phase-out program.

  • No public money will be spent to subsidize tobacco exports or continued tobacco growing in Canada.

  • The program will be monitored by a publicly appointed review board that includes representation from the public health community and public auditors.

Imperial Tobacco has thrown down the gauntlet, saying they wish to move away from subsidizing tobacco growing in Canada through private subsidies called  top-up payments (See PSC news release of March 8, 2004).  The Canadian tobacco manufacturers have artificially propped up the tobacco farming sector with over one billion dollars in private subsidies over the last fifteen years.  If it's worth that much to them to create a dependence among tobacco farmers on tobacco company largesse, it's surely incumbent on the big tobacco companies to pay to fix the problem they have created.

"Various schemes that have put forward to continue propping up tobacco farmers run counter to Canada's international trade obligations, generally fail to fairly compensate farmers and are bad for public health," said Neil Collishaw, PSC's Research Director. "Obviously we are in favour of a smoke-free Canada.  A useful step along the road would be start by making all our farms tobacco-free," he continued.

"We have suggested that farmers receive exit payments averaging about $300,000 each. The payments could be higher, if higher payments could be justified as fair and effective.  We would also insist that the whole project be bankrolled by tobacco companies, either directly, or indirectly, through a new tobacco surtax," said Mr. Collishaw.

There have been previous successful tobacco buyout programs in the United States, Europe and Australia.  These successful programs have all ensured that those who leave tobacco growing did not return to it later.  They did this by offering financially attractive buyout packages that made it more attractive to cease growing tobacco than to continue to do so.

"Canada should learn from these successful experiences elsewhere.  Whatever the amounts of the buyouts that are eventually offered, they should be high enough to be attractive to tobacco farmers, and allow them to leave the industry with dignity and to continue to be valuable citizens, contributing to the well-being of their communities," commented Mr. Collishaw.

"We will support serious efforts to phase out all tobacco growing in Canada that contain the key features we have proposed," announced Mr. Collishaw. 

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PSC's letter to Bob Speller - March 30, 2004


Neil Collishaw or Cynthia Callard
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
(613) 233-4878, Mobile phone: (613) 297-3590