BY: JAMES DIFIORE
One of the world’s largest financial services companies is advising its investors to expect growth in tobacco company stocks due to government restrictions on e-cigarettes and vaporizers. Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario government, along with several other state and provincial governments in North America, has already passed legislation that equates vaporizers with combustible tobacco products, resulting in several protests and demands from opposition MPPs to rethink the controversial measures.
The document, titled Tobacco – Negative Reaction to Pending E-Cig Regs Overdone – drafted to calm investors after all major tobacco companies experienced shrinking stock prices over the past week, may also help provide context to the controversy surrounding the recent fundraising strategies of the Wynne government.
A high-powered lobbying firm, Sussex Strategy Group, which represents big tobacco and various other industries, teamed up with the Ontario Liberals for a $6000 a ticket, high access dinner with the premier herself. The event has caused headaches for Wynne who has been in a state of damage control ever since, trying to reassure Ontarians that her government is not for sale. Sussex’s tobacco company connections help reinforce the possible reasons behind the unusually aggressive posture the government has towards nicotine vaporizers.
Recently, several governments outside North America have loosened restrictions on electronic cigarettes as a response to new research showing it is significantly less harmful than tobacco, but the Wynne government is moving forward with Bill 45, legislation that essentially equates e-cigs with cancer-causing traditional cigarettes. While there is no smoking gun proving Sussex has successfully lobbied the Wynne government to tighten restrictions on e-cigs, the lobbying firm’s client list must be pleased, especially when a company like Wells Fargo is praising e-cig restrictions as a coup for tobacco companies stock prices.
Along with its new restrictions on e-cigs, the Wynne government has been trying to curb contraband tobacco for years, with an estimated 1 billion dollars of lost revenue due to illegal cigarettes manufactured on First Nations reserves. It is difficult to estimate how much of a dent the government has made in the underground market, but tobacco companies are obviously the main benefactors.
Some members of the public have taken a stand against these new regulations. Organizations like the Vapor Advocates of Ontario, who organized a protest recently at Queen’s Park, are pressing the government to loosen restrictions on businesses that sell vapor products, as well as the perceived false equivalency the government is making between cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
In Ottawa, where there are more tobacco lobbyists than anywhere else in Canada, health officials have gone a step further in the fight against e-cigs, banning flavoured vaporizer liquids in an attempt to dissuade children from using the product. Ottawa Public Health staff argues that e-cigs are just as harmful as cigarettes, a dubious claim with no actual scientific backing.