April 24, 2002
DOCTORS ASK BIG TOBACCO TO STOP KILLING BABIES.
(Ottawa) - Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada used soft toys to send a hard message to Canada's three large tobacco companies. The health group told the companies that it's time they took steps to reduce the number of babies killed by their products.
Each of the three companies (JTI-Macdonald, Imperial Tobacco and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges) was presented with a balloon-a-gram holding one teddy bear for each infant death attributable to that company's products. Imperial Tobacco received 67 balloons and bears; Rothmans, Benson & Hedges received 22, and JTI-Macdonald received 16.
"Infant deaths are profoundly tragic," said PSC's president, Dr. Atul Kapur. "Sadly, tobacco products are responsible for one in twenty infant deaths in Canada."
Health Canada estimates that of the roughly 2,000 infant deaths every year in Canada, 105 are the result of babies' exposure to cigarette smoke. These babies die from Sudden Infant Death syndrome (17 baby boys and 13 baby girls), respiratory diseases (28 baby boys and 15 baby girls) and low birth-weight (18 baby boys 14 baby girls). Had they not been exposed to cigarette smoke before and after birth, 63 boys and 42 girls would have celebrated their first birthdays.
"More than twice as many babies are killed by cigarettes as are killed by unintentional injuries, like car accidents, drowning or fires," said Dr. Kapur.
"The response of the tobacco companies has been dismal. They refuse to accept their responsibilities towards these most innocent victims of their operations."
PSC doctors are calling on the companies to:
The balloon-a-grams were delivered to the Ottawa representatives of the companies, including lobbying and legal firms. Letters were sent directly to the executives of the three companies.
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Contact: Cynthia Callard (613) 233-4878
Letter to Tobacco CEOs:
April 24, 2002
Dear Tobacco Industry Executive:
Health Canada scientists have concluded that your products are responsible for approximately 5% of all infant deaths, and are responsible for the deaths of approximately 63 baby boys and 42 baby girls in Canada each year.
Based on your market shares, this would suggest that Imperial Tobacco’s share of this death toll is 67 baby deaths (64% market share), Rothmans, Benson and Hedges is responsible for 22 baby deaths (21% market share) and JTI-Macdonald is responsible for 16 baby deaths (15% market share).
In the three years since this Health Canada finding was published, a further 300 Canadian babies have died without your companies taking any voluntary measures to address this tragic issue. We note that you continue to ask the courts to strike down the government health warnings.
We believe it is time that you acted more responsibly. In particular, we are calling on you to:
Your early response is requested.
Kapur, MD, FRCPC