Diego Martin North/East Member of Parliament Colm Imbert has challenged the West Indian Tobacco Company (Witco) to use the courts to try to stop moves to implement the regulation of tobacco use locally.
Imbert issued the challenge during his contribution on the debate of the Tobacco Control Bill in Parliament, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, on Friday night,
where he said Witco had attempted to sway the voting on the bill through a document that was sent to the members of both the Upper and Lower Houses, with the intention of having the legislation struck down by the court.
“They are telling legislators that these regulations are going
to be struck down by the
court. This is not withstanding the fact that the Tobacco Control Act was passed with a special majority. They are relying on Section 13 of the Constitution, and they say they are going to go to the court to mount a Section 13 challenge and say the regulations are not justified. What this Parliament is doing today, they (Witco) are going to ask the court to deem it unconstitutional because it is not justifiable.”
“I am in complete support of these regulations; I am satisfied that they are properly made in accordance with the act and I challenge the Tobacco Company take us to court,” he said.
Imbert, who read from a document entitled “Comments on the Tobacco Control
Regulations 2013—For the Labelling of
Tobacco products and requirements for
dispensers”, said it had been sent by the
West Indian Tobacco Company to parlia-
mentarians and indicated the company
supported the regulation of the product but only if it was reasonable, constitutional, in accordance with the country’s domestic law and the country’s international obligations.
“I have received this and I understand that several members of Parliament have received this. It is a document prepared by the West Indian Tobacco and it goes into a lot of detail; it is several pages long and it goes through the regulations one by one, seeking to take issue with each one of the regulations, declaring each one of the regulations to be unconstitutional, wrong and just bad and urging members and in the other place to reject the regulations.”
Imbert said the company also complained their process
is automated and it is going to
cost them money to print the graphic messages on the packaging and it is going to cost them money to package in the manner prescribed and it is going to cost them to put 12 warnings in a case.
“This is the whole problem that I have with the whole tobacco lobby—so what if it costs the West Indian Tobacco Company money—so what?
Has anybody looked at the share price of Witco?
Has anybody been following the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange? Witco shares is now retailing, I think, at about $120.
As more and more taxation is imposed on cigarettes, profits going up, share price rising from a commercial point of view. I can’t feel sorry for the West Indian Tobacco Company, it is one of the most profitable companies on the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange,” he added.