Thursday, March 10, 2011

Candy flavoured smokes – here's the truth

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
Albert Einstein

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, but other commitments have been demanding a great deal of my time. Things should settle back to a more regular routine in the next few weeks.

According to Canadian MP (Member of Parliament) and New Democratic Party health critic Megan Leslie. "Health experts agree that flavoured tobacco [products] are consumed by young Canadians as a stepping stone to consuming non-flavoured tobacco products . . . these things target young people." Uh-huh.

The inference, of course, is that little cigars are being marketed to children, which is a gross misrepresentation of fact. Because, whether flavoured or not, little cigars and other tobacco products are not being marketed to children. In fact, it's against the law to sell tobacco products to anyone under 19 years of age.

In most provinces in Canada, as in many other jurisdictions, 19 defines the age at which children legally become adults. And, that status allows them to sit in a bar and have a beer with friends who have also reached the age of majority. At 19, young adults can enter into legally binding contracts, serve in the Canadian Forces . . . and legally purchase tobacco products. It's quite legal for the kids of any age to lift a smoke from mom's purse and smoke it in front of the local high school.

Ms. Leslie's euphemistic use of the term “young people” to infer that little cigars are being marketed to children is disingenuous at best. Bullshit and bafflegab at its political best.

At any rate, Ms. Leslie has introduced a private member's bill to tighten the rules around the sale of flavoured little cigars.

By “tightening the the rules”, Ms. Leslie is referring to a federal ban on the sale of flavoured little cigars, passed in October, 2009 by Stephen Harper's Conservatives. The manufacturers of little cigars merely changed the product, altering the size slightly and removing the filters, to comply with the new law.

But, the facts are that the bill approved by the Harper government was based on lie. And the bill recently introduced by Ms. Leslie is being sold to the public based on the same litany of lies.

In announcing her bill, Ms. Leslie used a campaign slogan from a new anti-tobacco advocacy group, “cancer shouldn't come in candy flavours”. Catchy little shibboleth. "It's marketing to kids," she said.

But, let's look at the bill, and its intent, logically, without the emotionalism of the 'save the children' argument, to determine if the claim that these products are being marketed to children has any merit in the real world.

With few exceptions, advertising of tobacco products is almost non-existent in Canada. No cigarette (or little cigar) commercials on TV or radio. No billboards on the lawn of the junior high school proclaiming the joys of smoking cherry flavoured little cigars. No tobacco sponsors of sporting events or rock concerts.

You will, however, find lots of advertising for alcoholic beverages, especially beer, the perennial favourite of “young people” across Canada. In fact, I suspect many “young” Canadians are as familiar with some beer commercials as they are with the national anthem. There are even some young people who think a beer commercial is the national anthem.

And, there's lots of advertising for drugs, especially smoking cessation products that carry a warning to consult a doctor immediately if you should start thinking about throwing yourself in front of a fast moving train. Of course, jumping in front of a fast moving train will likely guarantee that you'll kick the smoking habit and remain smoke free for the rest of your life. The downside is that the rest of your life may be limited to a few brief minutes.

The point is, without advertising, it's pretty damn difficult to market anything to anybody.

In September, 2008, Harper promoted his bill to ban candy flavoured little cigars by holding up colourfully packaged little cigars. "These products are packaged as a candy, and this is totally unacceptable," Harper was quoted as saying. "This can't continue." Huh?

What the fuck does it matter how products are packaged? It's illegal to sell tobacco products to children, no matter how pretty a package they come in. And, children are not likely to see the pretty packages at any rate.

At the end of May, 2008, months prior to the passage of the bill banning flavoured cigars and their pretty packages, convenience stores and other retail outlets selling cigarettes and tobacco products were required to have those products hidden from view. Tobacco displays, referred to as "power walls" by anti-smoker zealots, had to be covered so that neither children nor adults are subjected to the sight of those ugly cancer sticks in the pretty packages.

So the only time the children are exposed to the pretty candy-like packages is when some politician holds them up for the TV cameras to show the public how much the pretty packages look like candy wrappers. Unless, of course, the kids are digging the pretty packages out of the garbage when adult smokers are through with them.

"Despite the ban, you can still find flavoured cigarillos on store shelves today." Leslie told the CBC. And, she's absolutely right.

But, she forgot to mention that children can't see them; it's illegal. Children can't buy them; that's also illegal. So banning little cigars because they come in pretty packing which might appeal to children is just plain stupid. Because the only people permitted to see, or buy, the pretty fucking packages are adults.

So, banning the legal sale of little cigars to adults, whether they come in pretty packages or not, will do nothing to prevent underage children from experimenting with tobacco products.

Sometimes (often), it seems that the anti-smokers zealots are overly eager to prove Einstein's observation that human stupidity is infinite.


bannedsmoker said...

So the only time the children are exposed to the pretty candy-like packages is when some politician holds them up for the TV cameras to show the public how much the pretty packages look like candy wrappers.

Hey you're right. Ironic isn't it?

Harper should be charged for advertising tobacco and marketing tobacco to "the children".

Excellent point about alcohol too. Flavorings up the wazoo and countless TV ads depicting the epic parties and hot chicks in bikinis and short skirts. Not to mention the billboards, sponsorships, etc.

But OH-NO... That is not marketing to "the children" though, because one must be over the age of 19 to purchase alcohol.

That "marketing to the children" line only works with tobacco somehow.

Funny how that works isn't it?

Styx said...

What exactly does this cretin mean when she says "non-flavoured" tobacco? Is she talking about horrid "light" cigarettes, which as Philip Marlowe observed taste like filtered mountain mist.

How I long for the the days of my youth, when on pay-day I could indulge my gourmet taste for proper cigarettes made from Turkish or Balkan tobacco, cigarettes that smoked cool to the finish and lasted 15 minutes...

little cigars said...

The Little Cigar is very similar to the cigar except that instead of paper it is rolled using tobacco leaves.