July 31, 2007
New tobacco packaging shows need for stronger laws
(Ottawa) – Responding to the way in which tobacco companies have implemented a voluntary agreement to ban misleading words on cigarette packages, a group of Canadian doctors is calling for tougher measures based in law. July 31, 2007 is the date on which tobacco companies agreed to remove the deceptive labels 'light' and 'mild' from their cigarette packages as part of an agreement with the Competition Bureau.
When the Bureau released its secretly-negotiated deal with Big tobacco last November, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada predicted that the secret deal was so poorly written that it would allow the companies to continue to deceive their customers, all the while pretending that they had done something good for public health. (see earlier press release)
"As predicted, the companies have not ended the deception," explained Dr. Atul Kapur, president of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. "The tobacco companies have merely replaced the words 'light,' and 'mild' with other marketing terms" (See below for illustrations of changes made to leading brands).
The health group points out that the companies:
"The recent decision of the Supreme Court should give the federal government confidence that it can move meaningfully to remove all these forms of deception," suggested Dr. Kapur.
The Court firmly rejected a tobacco industry challenge to the section of the federal law which says that packaging cannot be "likely to create an erroneous impression about the characteristics, health effects or health hazards of the tobacco product or its emissions." In its ruling, the Supreme Court had harsh words for the tobacco industry practice of using package terms to reassure smokers:
Dr. Kapur reflected that six years had passed since the companies were asked by a former Health Minister (Allan Rock) to 'voluntarily' remove deceptive terms from cigarette packages by September 2001. "The time has come for meaningful regulation, meaningful package reform, and a meaningful end to the marketing ploys of a dangerous industry," said Kapur.
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