The Canadian parliament is considering a bill that designed to wipe out candy-flavored cigarettes but could hurt local tobacco farmers.
A Northeast Tennessee Congressman is the latest person to join the fight against a bill making its way through the Canadian legislature that could hurt American burley tobacco farmers.
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, sent Canadian International Trade Minister Stockwell Day a letter voicing his opposition to that country’s “Cracking down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act.”
Known as C-32, the bill would ban the sale and manufacture of flavored cigars and cigarettes in Canada. The legislation unanimously passed the Canadian House of Commons on June 17 and is now making its way through the Canadian Senate.
C-32’s supporters say the legislation would keep tobacco companies from making candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes targeted toward children. But tobacco advocates in the U.S. claim the legislation would wipe out a market for burley tobacco because it would ban the sale of “American-blend cigarettes” that contain burley, other tobacco varieties and flavorings used to soften burley’s harsh aroma.
“I view this as a trade measure rather a health measure,” Roe wrote in his letter, which called C-32 a “protectionist measure” because it could put American tobacco farmers at a loss while creating a market for tobacco varieties not commonly grown in this country.
In his letter, Roe said C-32 would bar American tobacco companies from selling their cigarettes in Canada and prevent tobacco farmers in his district from selling their tobacco to Canadian cigarette manufacturers.
East Tennessee farmers produced 7 million pounds of burley tobacco or almost one-third of the state’s total crop according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The state’s total burley harvest is expected to be worth more $100 million this year, said George Marks, president of the Burley Stabilization Corp. in Knoxville, Tenn.
Last week, members of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation sent letters opposing C-32 to both Day and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Kentucky is responsible for 72 percent of the country’s burley tobacco production and like Roe the delegation from that state claims the Canadian legislation would hurt burley farmers in their districts.
“The industry is a critical part of the Kentucky economy,” U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-1, wrote in a June 16 news statement about the issue. “At a time when our economy is reeling the last thing we need from our friends and allies is policies that hurt American industries and endanger jobs.”
U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Abingdon, said no one contacted his office about C-32 until Tuesday when he was called for an interview about this story. Boucher spokeswoman Courtney Lamie said his office is now reviewing possible steps in dealing with the legislation. According to the USDA, farmers in Boucher’s district produced 2.8 million pounds of burley tobacco last year, which is more than half of Virginia’s total harvest.
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