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Canadian Tobacco Companies

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Three large tobacco companies dominate the cigarette market in Canada:  Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Incorporated, and JTI-Macdonald Corporation.  In 1999-2000, their combined net sales was approximately $3 billion.  Imperial is the largest, followed by RBH and then JTI-Macdonald.  Health Canada’s Tobacco Control Programme has compiled cigarette sales data for 2001-2002 on the three major cigarette companies for each province and the total for Canada.  For the year ending December 2002, the “big three” combined sales was $3.2 billion.  Click here to view the data in chart format.  Furthermore, sales data from 1980-2001 can be found at the web site. Tobacco Control Programme


Tobacco industry documents became available online as part of the $206 billion dollar Master Settlement Agreement reached between 46 U.S. states and American tobacco companies.  There are over 30 million internal documents posted on tobacco industry, government and online library web sites.  We suggest searching documents through the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, based out of the University of California.

Many of the available online tobacco industry documents relevant to Canada are internal memos of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council (CTMC).  The CTMC was established in 1963 to serve as the principal lobbying association of Canada’s tobacco companies.   Today, it has a minor role and does not speak for the three major tobacco companies.  However, in the past it was very active in coordinating strategies to prevent smoke-free legislation, in particular ventilation strategies. 

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada presents an excellent summary of CTMC strategies and activities designed to undermine smoking bans in Canada: "Behind the Scenes: How the Canadian Tobacco Companies promoted 'ventilation' solutions to avoid restrictions on second-hand smoke".

Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited

Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited is Canada’s biggest tobacco company, with 69.5% of the Canadian cigarette market (Health Canada, 2001).  It is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT), a UK-based tobacco company that also owns Brown & Williamson in the United States.  Brown & Williamson has a U.S. market share of 10.5% (2000 figures).  In 2002, BAT held 14.6% of the world cigarette market, global cigarette volumes reached 777 billion, and it has holdings on every continent. 

Imperial Tobacco began in the 1800s, with two Montreal-based firms, D. Ritchie & Co. and the American Cigarette Company.  Today, the company’s head office is located in Montreal, Quebec, and operates two cigarette manufacturing plants in Montreal and Guelph, Ontario, as well as four tobacco processing plants in Aylmer, Ontario.  Imperial employs approximately 2,000 people across Canada.  In 1999, net revenues totaled $1.7 billion.

Avanti Medallion
Cameo Peter Jackson
du Maurier Player’s
John Player Sweet Caporal and Vogue

Click here for 2001-2002 Imperial Tobacco Canada cigarette sales data for each province (Tobacco Control Programme, Health Canada).

Click here for Canadian tobacco company market share data (National Clearinghouse on Tobacco and Health Programme, the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control. Health Canada. Go to "The Basics" under "Tobacco Industry").

Position on second-hand smoke:
The following is an excerpt from Imperial Tobacco Canada's position on "environmental cigarette smoke" :

"Second-hand cigarette smoke bothers many people. In the past, some research studies of "passive" or environmental smoke have produced conflicting results. But in 1998, a landmark ten-year study coordinated by the World Health Organization's prestigious International Agency for Research on Cancer showed no statistically significant correlation between environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer."

According to Imperial, second-hand smoke "bothers people" and "some research" shows "conflicting results." Imperial also cites the 1998 IARC study as evidence for its rejection of health impacts. To learn why and how the tobacco industry launched a massive misinformation campaign as part of its strategy to coutner the IARC findings, please click here.

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Rothmans, Benson & Hedges

Rothmans, Benson & Hedges (RBH) is Canada's second largest tobacco company, with 16.4% of the Canadian cigarette market (Health Canada, 2001). RBH is owned 40% by an affiliate of Philip Morris and 60% by Toronto-based Rothmans Inc, and is the only publicly traded tobacco company in Canada. Philip Morris is the biggest tobacco company in the United States, with a market share for the first quarter of 2003 at 48.3%. In 1999, Philip Morris accounted for 13.9% of the global cigarette market share, and sold 667.9 billion cigarettes.

RBH began in 1899 with the Rock City Tobacco Company in Quebec City, the makers of the cigarette brands Craven A and Sportsman. In 1963 Rothmans of Pall Mall bought the Rock City Tobacco Company, and in 1986, British company Benson & Hedges merged with Rothmans of Pall Mall to become Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. RBH has offices all over Canada, with approximately 780 employees. In 1999-2000, net sales of RBH totaled $533.2 million.

Benson & Hedges
Accord Dunhill
Belmont Mark Ten
Belvedere Number 7
Benson & Hedges Oxford
Black Cat Peter Stuyvesant
Canadian Classics Rothmans
Craven Sportsman
Craven "A" Viscount

Click here for 2001-2002 Rothmans, Benson & Hedges cigarette sales data for each province (Tobacco Control Programme, Health Canada).

Click here for Canadian tobacco company market share data (National Clearinghouse on Tobacco and Health Programme, the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control. Health Canada. Go to "The Basics" under "Tobacco Industry").

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JTI-Macdonald Corporation

The third largest tobacco company in Canada is JTI-Macdonald Corporation, with a declining domestic market share of 12.2% (Health Canada, 2001). JTI-Macdonald is a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan Tobacco International, whose major shareholder is the Japanese government. In 1999, JTI-Macdonald controlled 13.4% of the market share in Canada. The company's market share is mainly due to the success of one major cigarette brand, Export "A". Export "A" is the third largest selling brand in Canada.

JTI-Macdonald was formerly RJR-Macdonald, a wholly owned subsidiary of American tobacco company, RJ Reynolds International. In 1999, Japan Tobacco Incorporated bought RJR-Macdonald (and the rights to its Camel brand), and its named changed to JTI-Macdonald Corporation. The Head Office in Toronto employs 570 people.

JTI-Macdonald is not a publicly traded company, therefore financial information is difficult to obtain.

Position on second-hand smoke:
JTI-Macdonald Corporation has been vocal in the media about its views on second-hand smoke. John Wildgust, Head of Corporate Affairs, and Michel Poirier, Chairman, President & CEO, have both been on the public record denying the health effects of second-hand smoke. The official JTI International position on "environmental tobacco smoke" is the following:

"Many people have concerns about environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), also known as second hand smoke. While we do not believe that the scientific evidence, taken as a whole, is sufficient to establish that ETS is a cause of disease, we nevertheless believe in the right of non-smokers to be free from a smoky atmosphere.

We recognize that ETS can be annoying to non-smokers. We also recognize that, in confined and poorly ventilated areas, ETS can cause substantial irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. We therefore ask all smokers to be aware of and show consideration to people with whom they come into contact. In public places, we support, and engage in, solutions enabling smokers and non-smokers to co-exist - based on the principle of mutual consideration, and on the instruments of adequate ventilation and physical separation…."

Similarly to Imperial Tobacco's position, JTI International downplays the health effects of second-hand smoke, refers to it as "annoying", and spins the issue towards rights of the smoker, accommodation (please see Courtesy of Choice) and ventilation.

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Smaller competitors

(The information in this section comes from a May 29, 2003 Financial Post article, "Natives put new face on tobacco industry", written by Peter Kuitenbrouwer).

The cigarette market dynamics in Canada are changing. Smaller competitors, manufacturing at lower production costs, are beginning to take some of the market share that has been traditionally dominated by Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc., and JTI-Macdonald Corporation. BMO Nesbitt Burns reported that the cheaper brands made up 12% of the market share for all cigarettes shipped in Canada in the last quarter of 2002, which is up from 2% in 2001.

There are two-dozen smaller manufacturers in Canada selling cigarettes at a cheaper price. Two of the largest are native-owned. The three largest of the smaller competitors are Grand River Enterprises, Tabac ADL and Bastos du Canada Ltee. The latter two are located in Quebec. The brands being sold by these smaller competitors are Virginia Select, Bailey's, Tabec and Smoking. They sell for $1 to $1.25 less a pack than leading brands sold by Canada's "big three" tobacco companies.

Grand River Enterprises (GRE)
As an indicator of growth, the number of cigarette cases produced over the last three years has greatly increased. In January 2001, GRE produced 4,500 cases of cigarettes. In January 2002, GRE produced 10,200 cases and in January 2003, 25,600 cases were produced, or 250 million cigarettes.

GRE exports 80% of its brands (such as Seneca) that are usually sent by truck to free trade zones in California, Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New York and Oklahoma. Duty is paid by the importers and then the cigarettes are resold.

Canadian GRE brands for Canada include Sago, D.K, and Putter's Light. GRE has permission to sell its cigarette to non-natives through convenience stores in every province east of Ontario.

Tabac ADL was founded on the Mashteuiatsh reserve in 1994 to sell fine-cut tobacco. In 1998, it began manufacturing cigarettes. Its brands include Virginia Select and Bailey's. According to a company partner, ADL is the fourth largest tobacco company in Canada, employing 175 people. In 2002, the Federal Business Development Bank declared ADL "Company of the Year" in the St-Jean region of Quebec. ADL sells its cigarettes almost exclusively off reserves.

Bastos du Canada Ltee.
Bastos du Canada Ltee. began making cigarettes in 1967 in Lousieville, Quebec. In 1987, it was privately bought and now employs approximately 50 people. It produces its own brand, Smoking, in addition to generic brands, such as Gipsy (produced for Loblaws), Celesta (produced for Sobeys) and Dakar (produced for Metro grocery chain in Quebec).

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