June 23, 2007
New law needed to end tobacco advertising - whatever the Supreme Court decision.
(Ottawa) – Whether or not the Supreme Court upholds the federal Tobacco Act when it releases its decision on a tobacco industry challenge to this law later this week, a Canadian doctor-led health charity is calling on Health Minister Tony Clement to move quickly to introduce a new law to end tobacco advertising.
“The Tobacco Act was a weak law in 1997, and if the Supreme Court upholds it, its weaknesses will become more apparent,” explained Dr. Atul Kapur, president of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC). “Rather than banning advertising, this federal law specifically allows tobacco companies to advertise in newspapers, magazines, bars and direct mail; under this law web-site and e-mail advertising is also allowed, as is tobacco company advertising through sponsorship of certain goods and services that are thought not to appeal to youth, such as taxi companies, security services or currency exchanges.”
Dr. Kapur explained that the major tobacco companies have voluntarily restrained from advertising during their challenge to the constitutionality of the Tobacco Act, but that this self-restraint is expected to evaporate the moment that the court makes its ruling.
“A decade ago, the tobacco company lawyers adopted a legal strategy of arguing that the federal law was so difficult to interpret that the effect was the same as a total ban on advertising,” explained Dr. Kapur. “Had they known that it would take so long for a final court ruling, they might have taken an approach that did not prevent them from exploiting the weaknesses in the law without exposing the disingenuousness of their lawyers’ claims.”
PSC predicts that whatever the court’s decisions, the companies will begin advertising in earnest.
“If the Supreme Court upholds the law, the government should move quickly to introduce a comprehensive ban on advertising,” recommended Dr. Kapur. “With six million school-aged Canadian children, there are six million reasons the government should not delay in putting an effective ban in place.”
Even if the Supreme Court strikes down the law, the government has many legal tools available to it to effectively end tobacco advertising, PSC’s president explained. “One of the most effective ways of ending tobacco marketing is to make it a bad business decision.” PSC has provided the government with a series of proposals to remove financial incentives that currently exist for tobacco companies to advertise.
The Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Tobacco Act will be made public in the same week that senior Canadian officials working on tobacco control leave to participate at a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, to discuss progress on the 2005 global tobacco treaty. “Canada has made an international treaty commitment to implement a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising by 2010, but there is no reason to wait that long to introduce new legislation,” said Dr. Kapur.
Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires Canada to ban tobacco advertising ‘in accordance with its constitutional principles.'
Contact: Cynthia Callard, Executive Director
Related press releases:
Example of current
tobacco advertising in Canada