March 5, 2008
Quebec regulations will blunt tobacco marketing, end unit sales of cigarillos.
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC) applauds the steps taken by Quebec Health Minister, Philippe Couillard, to curb tobacco advertising.
“Both federal and provincial governments have the right and the responsibility to protect their citizens from tobacco marketing,” said Neil Collishaw, PSC’s director of research, “but the Quebec government is the only one to take on the recent resurgence of tobacco advertisements.”
Tobacco companies resumed advertising in late 2007, a few months after the Supreme Court upheld the 1997 federal Tobacco Act. During their challenge of this law, the companies had refrained from advertising as to do so would have undermined their (eventually unsuccessful) legal argument that the federal law was so strong that it was a de facto ban and was inconsistent with the Charter.
“The Quebec measures announced today will go a long way to blunt the impact of tobacco marketing,” said Mr. Collishaw. The government has imposed three stringent conditions on tobacco ads: they have set a maximum size, they have limited ad copy to black and white and uniform text size and they have required government health warning messages. “Together these will blunt, but not eliminate, the ability of tobacco advertising to increase smoking."
Other significant measures proposed by the Quebec government today include limits on point of sale signage and a restriction on the sale of small packages of cigarillos. The recent market introduction of single-sale candy-flavoured cigarillos resulted from a loop-hole in the federal law. Surveys conducted by both the Quebec and federal government of smoking behaviour showed that these tobacco products were the new starter product for nicotine addiction in Quebec.
“By setting a minimum price of $5.00 on tobacco products or requiring packages with no fewer than 10 units, the Quebec government will make cigarillos less affordable to youth.”
While delighted with the advances in Quebec, PSC expressed regret that the majority of young Canadians remain unprotected from many forms of tobacco marketing. “All Canadians deserve the protection that is now being offered to Quebecers,” said Mr. Collishaw. “Moreover, even more protection is needed.” PSC repeated its call for the federal government to bring Canadian law and regulations into compliance with the global tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
“On the basis of the Supreme Court decision last summer, we believe that the court would now support a comprehensive ban on tobacco products,” he said. “But no court decision is needed to place Quebec style regulations across the country.” Neil Collishaw noted that in the past 7 years, Health Canada has passed only one set of regulations under the Tobacco Act (regarding reduced ignition potential cigarettes).
The proposed Quebec regulations are subject to a 45 day comment period.