While the Grenada Tobacco Company Limited received a mention in both the 2020 and 2021 budget addresses, the Venezuela-based company has the Grenada Industrial Development (GIDC) waiting.
Delivering the 2020 budget address on November 20, 2019 Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr the Hon Keith Mitchell told the House of Representatives that the Grenada Tobacco Company Limited “is expected to become operational in December 2019, providing employment for 30 persons.” He said all products manufactured by the company were destined for export markets, noting that investments in the project totalled $7.8 million.
The company did not become operational in December 2019. Grenada Industrial Development (GIDC) facilities specialist Clifford Lalsee confirmed to The Grenadian Voice on Tuesday that the space at the Frequente Industrial Park assigned to the company is “non-functional” and the corporation is “waiting to hear” as to what to do next.
On December 02, 2020 Minister of Finance Gregory Bowen mentioned the Grenada Tobacco Company under the agri-business and manufacturing section of the budget speech. This reference specified the “proposed project at a cost $7.8 million and involves the manufacturing of cigarettes, using fine imported blends,” he said, making a point of raising his index finger to fellow parliamentarians, slowly stating “for 100% export.”
A visit to the Grenada Tobacco Company website provides no information about the principles of the company, other than to say “we are a new company built on 40 years of experience in the tobacco industry, managing the manufacture and commercialization of cigarettes, cigars and its derivates (sic) across the Atlantic.” As to its Grenada address in Frequente, Saint George’s, the company states that the location “at the Caribbean entrance” allows the company to develop “deeper and stronger connections within the South and Central American markets…”
Decades of research have shown that cigarette smoking causes cancer. Cancer Research UK reports that the link between smoking and cancer is “very clear. It causes at least 15 different types of cancer (and) causes around seven in 10 lung cancer cases in the UK.”
The American Cancer Society reports that tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the US, accounting for about 1 in 5 deaths a year. “On average, people who smoke die about 10 years earlier than people who have never smoked,” the society states, adding that smoking can damage nearly every organ in the body.
President of the Grenada Cancer Society Dr Sonia Nixon, when asked about the manufacturing of cigarettes in Grenada, said “none of it should be sold here” and said greater efforts are needed to deter young people from taking up the habit.
“There is an increase in young people smoking. We have to nip that in the bud,” she advised.
While the start-up of the cigarette manufacturing business in Grenada remains uncertain, the idea of exporting a known cancer-causing product offends some people. Rev Osbert James, in an interview with The Grenadian Voice, said no good benefit can come from this initiative.
“I would have great difficulty if our country manufactured cigarettes for export when we know cigarette smoking, when done properly, will result in the illness and death of others,” he said.
The 2015 World Health Organisation (WHO) report on the global tobacco pandemic indicates that Grenada signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2004 but reported the country has no laws on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Dave Alexander, drug control officer in the Ministry of Education Drug Control Secretariat, said that the Secretariat is focussed more on marijuana smoking, which is preferred in Grenada.
The most recent Grenada Secondary School Drug Prevalence Survey, dated 2013, indicated alcohol, marijuana and tobacco are the main substances used by secondary students. “Alcohol is the primary substance of choice among secondary school students, with more than 70% of the student reported consuming alcoholic beverages at least once in their lifetime.”
Alexander said whether it is cigarette or marijuana smoke, his advice to young people comes from the late Dr Winston Thomas. “He once told me many years ago that the human lungs were not designed for smoke.”