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Quebec-based cigar company asks Alberta not to proclaim flavoured tobacco law

EDMONTON - A Quebec-based cigar distributor is lobbying the Alberta government not to proclaim new legislation that would ban flavoured tobacco products.

Alberta's Tobacco Reduction (Flavoured Tobacco Products) Amendment Act received royal assent last month, but the Progressive Conservative government has not set a date for when it will go into effect.

A company called Casa Cubana has written to Premier Alison Redford and some cabinet ministers this month asking for the law to be reconsidered.

"We have contacted key cabinet ministers and Premier Redford, effectively asking them to stop and actually think about this one before it is too late," Luc Martial, a company spokesman, said Monday.

Martial said "legitimate industry stakeholders" across the province are now actively reaching out to the government demanding a stay of proclamation and any subsequent eventual regulations.

The legislation gives the government full regulatory authority over all flavoured tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

Health Minister Fred Horne said the province is still writing the regulations designed to protect children from tobacco use and will proclaim the legislation later this year.

"It gives Alberta amongst the toughest tobacco legislation in the country," he said. "We did this to protect children and youth and we are committed to following through."

Casa Cubana contends that flavoured tobacco is not a "gateway" product that leads young people to use other tobacco products and warns that Alberta stands to lose $11 million per year in tax revenue from the sale of its cigars.

The company said the vast majority of the people who buy the small cigars it distributes are adults.

Martial said the Alberta government has been misled by reports that link flavoured tobacco products to children.

"It is our contention that the government was unfortunately duped into thinking that flavoured tobacco products was a relevant youth health priority — and is now on the verge of unjustifiably and without warrant undermining the rights of hundreds of thousands of voters in the province and throwing (away) millions of dollars in annual tax revenues," says the letter sent to Redford dated Jan. 27.

Les Hagen, a spokesman for the group Campaign for a Smoke Free Alberta, said Casa Cubana's letter is just the latest effort by tobacco industry lobbyists to snuff out the legislation.

He said the lobbyists failed to secure exemptions in the bill last year despite numerous attempts.

"This doesn't surprise me, it is just par for the course," Hagen said.

"We are just going to encourage the Alberta government to do the right thing and make sure the ban extends to all flavoured tobacco products including menthol cigarettes."

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