Imbert challenges Witco to block Tobacco Bill

Company document urges MPs to reject regulations

By By Camille Bethel

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. 

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