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    "Tobacco Industry Is No Demon"

    Imperial Tobacco Canada chief executive urges for understanding.

    TORONTO, Canada -- The demonization of cigarette makers negatively affects any efforts to reduce smoking's dangers and has caused such illegal side effects as smuggling, the CEO of Imperial Tobacco Canada, Benjamin Kemball, told the Canadian Press.

    Kemball noted that the tobacco industry meets government-regulated standards for a legal product, and society's demeanor of the industry and its companies causes more issues than it solves. He added that the Canadian government collects $9 billion annually from tobacco taxes, or $13 in taxes for every dollar that the tobacco industry earns as profits.

    Anti-smoking policies hold back any efforts to reduce youth smoking and have caused illegal means to be the third largest source of cigarettes -- with 17 percent of the Canadian market, Kemball argued. That percentage puts the illegal sources behind Imperial Tobacco's 46 percent for its du Maurier brand and Rothmans Benson and Hedges' 22.5 percent, but ahead of JTI-MacDonald's 13 percent market share.

    "The ostracizing of the tobacco industry has included attempts to also try to dismiss the ideas and concerns raised by numerous other groups, including retailers and the hospitality sector, veterans, charity bingos and even the charities they support," he said.

    Taxation policies also encourage counterfeit and other illegal operations that expose the country's youth "not just to illicit cigarettes at pocket-money prices, but also other dangerous or illegal products," Kemball added. Following current trends, by 2010 over 30 percent of the cigarettes in Canada will be obtained illegally.

    The industry is not the only victim of too-harsh policies, Kemball said, citing that legal retailers lose $250 million annually due to illegal sales, according to the London-based British American Tobacco Group. If that isn't enough, small retailers find themselves the target of theft of cigarettes.

    "It simply makes no sense to limit the policy-making to those with one view of the issue and to say to all other stakeholders: 'We are not interested in your input, and we do not want you to even try to be socially responsible,'" he said.

    In addition, lawsuits take decades and cost the government millions of taxpayer dollars, "and we're very confident we're going to win in the end," he noted.

    But if the tobacco companies lose, "then essentially what they'll do is bankrupt the tobacco industry, and I don't believe for one minute that any smoker will give up smoking just because Imperial Tobacco Canada closes its doors -- they'll turn, as they're doing today, to other sources, " said Kemball.

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