Montreal Gazette

The tobacco industry is culpable


Re: “Tobacco trade lights fire in Mohawk economy” and “Treaty sets out border trade rights” (Extra, April 13)

The salient point missing from Christophe­r Curtis’s stories on the illicit Mohawk cigarette trade is the culpabilit­y of the tobacco industry.

As recently as 2010, Canadian giant JTI-Macdonald and Northern Brands Internatio­nal, a subsidiary of U.S. major R.J. Reynolds, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges “for helping others sell contraband cigarettes” and paid record fines. And, even more important, the industry persists in aggressive­ly marketing and selling products it knows to be grotesquel­y harmful to the health of its customers.

There really is massive smuggling going on. It’s beyond naive for Karl Hele, the head of Concordia University’s First Peoples program, to argue that Mohawks are “just taking goods from one end of their territory to the other.” If they were, why would they be using high-powered speedboats to do so?

And even if one accepts Mohawk arguments about cross-border territoria­l integrity, the sheer quantities involved prove that the intent and execution of the enterprise is illegal. As the articles correctly indicate, “it’s illegal for (Mohawks) to sell untaxed cigarettes to non-aboriginal consumers.” Mohawk sellers are patently aware they’re manufactur­ing and marketing to illegal customers at all their smoke shacks.

As for Serge Simon, grand chief of Kanesatake, he argues that shutting down the tobacco trade will “see people committing other crimes.” Is that a legitimate defence or a threat?

On the one hand, he claims he cut ties to anyone who “sold dope on the side” when he ran his own cigarette business. On the other hand, he’s issuing threats and providing a justificat­ion for those same illegal practices. His logic is up in smoke, but what the tobacco industry does is still far worse. Stan Shatenstei­n Editor and publisher STAN Bulletin Smoking & Tobacco Abstracts & News Montreal

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