Backgrounder on Tobacco
September 3, 2003
to celebrate the end
of tobacco sponsorship
After October 1, 2003,
tobacco companies will no longer be able to use arts and
sporting events to advertise their cigarette brands.
On that date, the sections of the federal Tobacco Act
(1997) which exempted these activities from the general
prohibition on lifestyle advertising of cigarettes cease
to be in effect.
Tobacco companies will be
allowed to give money to sporting and arts events – but
they will no longer be able to display their brand
names, logos or other recognizable promotions either on
the site of the events or in posters, advertisements or
This date marks the
beginning of the full implementation of the advertising
provisions of Canada’s Tobacco Act. The first wave
of sponsorship restrictions were implemented on October
1, 2000, when billboards and retail displays were no
longer permitted. Since that date, the rate of
smoking among Canada’s youth has dropped from 25% to 22%
- approximately 60,000 fewer teenagers smoke.
Tobacco sponsorship is just a way of
Canadian tobacco companies
started using sponsorships to advertise cigarettes after
Parliament first banned cigarette advertisements in
1988. By exploiting a loop-hole in the law (which
banned brand name sponsorships, but did not ban
corporate sponsorships which used cigarette brand names,
like Player’s Racing Ltd.), the companies replaced their
conventional advertising with sponsorship ads which
looked (and worked!) very much like the ads which had
The Quebec Superior Court
judge who presided over months of testimony and
thousands of pages of exhibits concluded that tobacco
sponsorship was advertising: “Conventional
advertising and sponsorship serve the same purpose for
Player’s cigarette promotion before cigarette ads were
Player’s sponsorship promotion after cigarette ads were
colours, the mountains, the imagery remained the same –
as did the objective of increasing tobacco sales.
Sponsorship advertising increases
smoking – especially among youth.
“ 527 Fact: there is
incontrovertible evidence that advertising and
sponsorship encourage people, especially adolescents, to
consume tobacco products.”
- Judge André Denis, 13
Striking down the challenge to the federal Tobacco Act.
There is no question that
cigarette advertising leads to higher levels of smoking.
Many scientific reviews and government authorities have
reached this conclusion.
The importance of banning
cigarette advertising is so widely accepted that the 192
countries which are members of the World Health
Organization agreed this year that “a comprehensive ban
on advertising, promotion and sponsorship would reduce
the consumption of tobacco products.”
A study conducted for the
World Bank reviewed the impact of the presence of
cigarette advertising in 102 countries, and found that
countries with comprehensive bans (such as those that
also banned sponsorship advertising) had less smoking.
Tobacco companies have used sponsored
groups to avoid bans on cigarette promotions for 15
years – the last of three postponements is coming to an
In 1988, Tobacco companies
found a loophole in Canada’s first tobacco law, and
created shell companies to continue sponsoring.
Using this loop-hole, they expanded their sponsorship
advertising budgets by over 700% in only 5 years.
BBy the time the second
tobacco law was passed in 1997, the number of groups who
felt dependant on tobacco sponsorship had grown to the
extent that Parliament was no longer willing or able to
reinstate a strengthened version of the ban on
promotions. The 1997 law originally gave groups three
years to find new sponsors - but after intensive
lobbying by tobacco-funded groups the law was amended in
1998 to extend the reprieve. Sponsored promotion
was allowed until October 1, 2003 (with some
restrictions coming into effect on October 1, 2000).
By ending the export of tobacco
advertising, Canada will be a more responsible global
This spring (May 2003), the
World Health Organization and its member countries
approved a new global tobacco treaty (the Framework
Convention on Tobacco Control), which is designed to
help prevent the spread of tobacco-addiction from
wealthy developed countries to the developing world.
This treaty calls on all
countries to stop exporting tobacco advertising –
especially through car races and other international
sporting events. Canada was a leader in negotiating this
global treaty. By refusing to allow international
tobacco events to continue, Canada is leading by its
Canada can now help other countries
resist the pressure to allow tobacco sponsorship.
France and Britain, cigarette names may not be
displayed – even during Formula races.
High-pressure tactics are
used by tobacco companies to persuade governments to
allow sponsorship advertising of cigarette brands to
continue. Often, governments refuse to cave in to
the pressure, and the bans are maintained. Britain
and France are two countries where the government has
refused to allow tobacco brands to be displayed during
car races (and the events have not been withdrawn).
Other countries (like Belgium and Australia) have
succumbed to the pressure to make exceptions to their
Canada is one of a very
small number of countries where events have been
withdrawn as a result of advertising bans. As
regrettable as this is, it does create an opportunity
for Canada to strengthen global solidarity of
governments facing such pressures.
Canada has been dropped from
the 2004 Formula 1 calendar; commitments have been made
to add races in Bahrain (April 2004) and Shanghai
(October 2004) and Turkey (2005). Grand Prix
tracks are currently being built in these locations,
even though all three countries have laws that ban
The pressure is on these
countries to make exceptions to these laws to allow
tobacco advertising at their new Grand Prix races.
Canada can do more than just put its own house in order.
It can help Bahrain, China and Turkey resist pressure to
suspend public health measures.
Tobacco industry “philanthropy” will
be exposed as less-than-average corporate giving.
the same year that Imperial Tobacco spent $1.1 million
promoting its sponsorship of photography, it only
donated $39,000 to photographic arts
Because tobacco companies
spend so much on promoting their sponsorships, it is
sometimes thought they are relatively generous
companies. This is not the case.
In fact, Imperial Tobacco
(the only tobacco company to make its donations public)
gives less to charities than the average Canadian
corporation. IMAGINE, a Canadian organization
which promotes corporate giving, reports that the
average Canadian company donates 1.03% of corporate
pre-tax profits to charity. Imperial Tobacco
gives only 0.86%.
Tobacco companies spend
significantly more advertising their donations to arts
and sporting events than the amount of the donations.
Documents presented in court during the industry
challenge to the Tobacco Act revealed that Imperial
Tobacco gave only $39,000 in donations to photographic
arts, but spent 28 times that much ($1.1 million)
advertising its gift.
A National Post survey of
top individual and corporate donors last year showed
that each of Canada’s top-ten individual philanthropists
gave away more than Imperial Tobacco, and that Imperial
Tobacco did not even make the list of the ten most
generous Canadian companies.