Press Release 

Ottawa – September 6, 2011

WTO ruling should encourage Canada to go further in banning cigarette additives

A national health charity is calling for the federal government to strengthen its control on cigarette additives in response to last week’s report by the World Trade Organization regarding menthol and clove cigarettes.

“The report of the dispute panel on clove cigarettes has a clear message for Canada,” said Dr. Atul Kapur, president of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.  “Bans on menthol and clove cigarettes are a justified and important health measure, but discriminating between clove and menthol cigarettes is not consistent with trade law.”

Dr. Kapur noted that WTO’s dispute panel report on Indonesia’s complaint against the U.S. for banning clove cigarettes while not banning menthol cigarettes accepted the regulatory advice made by the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), even though neither Indonesia nor the United States are party to the FCTC.

“The deference made by this dispute panel to the importance of health in general, to regulations to discourage youth smoking in particular, and to the role of the FCTC in setting standards for tobacco control, are a welcome advance in international law,” said Dr. Kapur. “The panel’s report has clear implications for all countries:  banning additives is justified under trade law, but giving special status to menthol cigarettes isn’t.”

PSC recommends that in light of the WTO panel report, Health Canada strengthen its tobacco regulations to remove menthol cigarettes and clove kreteks from the Canadian market. “Concerns of US politicians that a ban on menthol would lead to increased smuggling do not exist in Canada,” Dr. Kapur explained, as the Canadian market for menthol cigarettes is under 3% - one-tenth of its popularity in the United States.

“If the World Trade Organization is persuaded by the evidence that menthol cigarettes are one way to make it easier for tobacco companies to recruit young smokers, then it is hard to understand why Canada’s federal government isn’t” said Dr. Kapur.

Dr. Kapur pointed out that the bans on tobacco additives implemented in Canada and the United States in recent years differ in ways that somewhat restrict the applicability of the WTO panel report to the Canadian law. Nonetheless, he said, the general findings provide guidance to Canada in defending its own measures against concerns raised at the WTO: it is important to give all ‘like products’ equal treatment, and additive bans to protect youth are justified.

PSC is concerned by the continued marketing in Canada of several tobacco products which have been exempted from the additive ban imposed by the “Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act” of 2009.

“There are many products on the market that are attractive to youth and which are ‘like’ products in which additives are banned. These include cigarillos, whether they weigh more or less than 1.4 grams, menthol cigarettes and kretek cigarettes,” Dr. Kapur explained.  “To make Canada’s law consistent with the recommendations of the World Health Organization and of the World Trade Organization, these products should also be banned in Canada.” 

PSC also recommends that bans on youth-friendly flavours be extended to chewing tobacco, hookah and other tobacco products used to initiate young people into nicotine addiction.

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For information: 

Cynthia Callard, Executive Director, 613 233 4878

Related links:

Fact sheets:

World Trade Organization

USA Food and Drug Administration:

Canadian additive ban

Prime Minister’s Statements