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    INTERNATIONAL NEWS

    Canadian wholesalers rocked by tobacco giant's move to self-distribution; Seven-Eleven Japan to sell canned oxygen.

    MONTREAL -- The decision taken by Imperial Tobacco Canada (ITC) to deliver its products directly to retailers is likely to jeopardize several small and medium-size businesses in Canada and Quebec, which are specialized in distribution to convenience stores, according to the National Convenience Stores Distributor Association (NACDA).

    NACDA represents the interests of the majority of convenience store distributors in Canada. Most of these distributors are family-owned small businesses, which have been in operation for many years. They oversee the distribution of products, including tobacco, throughout Canada.

    "We are surprised and disappointed by Imperial Tobacco's decision. While we have been partners for more than 100 years, we have learned about this decision by means of a press release yesterday. Yet, an important part of our distributors' sales comes from the distribution of tobacco products. Some of them will find it difficult to make good the important losses brought about by ITC's decision," said Marc Fortin, president at NACDA.

    According to NACDA, ITC's decision is likely to result in the loss of thousands of jobs in the distribution industry throughout Canada, in addition to creating an upward pressure on the price of other products sold in convenience stores and grocery stores.

    "Furthermore, the distributors ensuring the delivery of products to Canada's regions are likely to be affected the most. Ultimately, we are concerned that these regions will pay dearly for Imperial Tobacco's new strategy since some wholesalers who serve remote areas may not be able to survive," Fortin pointed out.

    In other international news, Tokyo-based convenience chain operator Seven-Eleven Japan Co. will start marketing two types of canned oxygen designed to help consumers alleviate or soften fatigue and stress.

    The 3.2-liter canned supplements, named O2 Supli, provide an oxygen density ratio of 95 percent in relation to the container's volume, the company said.

    Oxygen inside the container is sprayed into a transparent plastic mask that is initially attached to the can as its cap. Users wear the mask, whose other end is inserted into the spray's nozzle.

    The canned oxygen products, developed with household products manufacturer Hakugen Co., will help refresh users, especially when they are driving automobiles or working at offices, the company said.

    The products will be offered in two types with one carrying "aroma" sheets soaked with peppermint essential oil, and the other with grapefruit essential oil. The sheets are to be put near the nozzle to convey their fragrances to oxygen. Both products will sell for 600 yen apiece.

    Seven-Eleven said it will put the products on store shelves in Tokyo, Chiba and Kanagawa on May 23 with their marketing areas to be expanded to all stores in the country on June 14.

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