Mon | Sep 26, 2022

Smoking ban blunts legal cigarette sales

Leading tobacco distributor slams ‘tone-deaf’ laws governing sector

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2022 | 12:10 AM
Raoul Glynn, Managing Director, Carreras
Raoul Glynn, Managing Director, Carreras
File 
Over the years, the police and customs have seized several shipments of illegal cigarettes worth billions of dollars.
File Over the years, the police and customs have seized several shipments of illegal cigarettes worth billions of dollars.
Though the volume of legal cigarette sales in Jamaica has been reduced, the consumption has not been reduced because of the illicit trade.
Though the volume of legal cigarette sales in Jamaica has been reduced, the consumption has not been reduced because of the illicit trade.
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Jamaica’s leading marketer and distributor of cigarettes and tobacco-related products, Carreras Limited, is reporting that its cigarette sales have been slashed by a quarter since the ban on public smoking took effect almost a decade ago. However,...

Jamaica’s leading marketer and distributor of cigarettes and tobacco-related products, Carreras Limited, is reporting that its cigarette sales have been slashed by a quarter since the ban on public smoking took effect almost a decade ago.

However, Managing Director Raoul Glynn has told The Sunday Gleaner that consumption has not declined by a similar 25 per cent.

“Though the volume of legal cigarette sales in Jamaica has been reduced in excess of 25 per cent since the 2013 ban took effect, it is important to note, however, that consumption has not been reduced by a similar percentage, thanks to the pervasive threat of the illicit trade,” he said.

The Carreras boss said that the “unmitigated infiltration of illegal cigarettes” commenced over the period 2014 to 2017, while the legitimate tobacco industry was left to withstand an onslaught of tax increases and more stringent regulation.

This, he claimed, affected government revenue collected from the sector.

“As a consequence, government revenue plummeted from almost $7.5 billion, over a three-year period, to $5.5 billion in 2017. Fortunately, the Holness administration – by way of the Dr Nigel Clarke-led Ministry of Finance and the Public Service – has since suspended any further excise hikes, which, in turn, produced a $6.9 billion revenue rebound for the Government of Jamaica in 2021,” Glynn stated, while highlighting what he called “commendable strides made by the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Customs Agency, [which] have gone a long way in tightening the island’s border protection efforts”.

MISSED THE MARK

However, the Carreras managing director is of the view that more needs to be done.

“It is against this ever-tenuous backdrop that the Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton’s comments on tobacco, alcohol, sugar, sodium and trans-fat consumption misses the mark on the realities of revenue generation and the macroeconomic impact of Jamaica’s business community,” he said.

Last year, Tufton took things a step further by forbidding all agencies, officials or employees of the health ministry from accepting donations, sponsorship, gifts, services or assistance in cash or kind from tobacco- or alcohol-producing companies or their subsidiaries.

“Jamaica as a signatory to the WHO (World Health Organization) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control agreed to the implementation of key provisions under this global treaty, which includes, among other things, a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion,” read a section of a health ministry memo dated Monday, October 11, 2021 that was circulated to the relevant agencies.

The memo added that the draft Harmful Use of Alcohol Policy outlines among objectives a plan to reduce alcohol advertising by preventing and/or reducing promotions, sponsorship and any advertising targeting youth, adding that the prohibition of donations would be added in an update.

Carreras is a publicly listed company with local and international ownership. Jamaican shareholders own approximately 49.6 per cent of the company, with the majority interest being held by British American Tobacco.

TONE-DEAF LAWS

Asked if Carreras supported the ban on smoking in public places, Glynn said: “First and foremost, Carreras unequivocally supports balanced regulation and practical legislation. Public-place smoking as well as designated areas for smokers and vapers to enjoy their respective products, while shielding adult and under-age bystanders from second-hand smoke or emissions, exist the world over.

“But, with that being said, international mandates or rulings cannot be applied en masse to an unrelated jurisdiction without thorough consideration for the lay of the land, that is: culture, resources and infrastructure.”

The Carreras boss also had strong words for the new-look legislation being worked on to govern the sector.

“The proposed Tobacco Control Act, 2020, can only be described as tone-deaf, as it not only seeks to ignore the island’s nuances, but sidelines an entire industry’s economic contributions in hopes to meet the approval of external influences that neither share our climate nor our way of life,” Glynn said.

“As it stands, most jurisdictions allow for a smoking distance of five metres from the entrance of an enclosed space, of which Jamaica is compliant; while open-air entertainment venues already allocate for convenient smoking areas to best meet the needs of all patrons. We are, at this time, pleased that the majority of the members of the bill’s joint select committee have decided to maintain this distance despite infeasible calls to extend to 10 metres and beyond.”

tyrone.reid@gleanerjm.com