News Releases

January 17, 2005

Tobacco company payments to retailers for cigarette promotions increase by 50%
Doctors call for an end to retail-promotions of cigarettes.

(Ottawa)  Information released under Access to Information laws shows that tobacco companies are spending more than ever on retail promotions of cigarettes.  Data provided by tobacco companies to Health Canada and released last week has allowed Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada to calculate that the average payment to each retailer by each tobacco company has increased by more than 50% in the past three years.  [1]

The average tobacco company payment for the right to advertise cigarettes in retail stores in the first half of 2004 was $876.66, compared with $563.42 paid in the first half of 2001, the first year for which reports on cigarette promotion expenditures were filed with government.

"The willingness of Canadian retailers - from big chains to mom-and-pop stores - to help tobacco companies promote their cigarettes to young Canadians is a sad reflection on the role this business sector wishes to play in the community," said Dr. Atul Kapur, president of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. "It is also a sad commentary on the willingness of some governments to allow this to continue."

The information was released on the eve of a Supreme Court hearing on the legitimacy of Saskatchewan's three-year-old ban on retail displays of cigarettes. 

A tobacco company launched a legal challenge against Saskatchewan's law, arguing that it was in conflict with federal law and that the weaker provisions of the federal Tobacco Act should take precedence). Although the Saskatchewan ban was upheld by Saskatchewan's Court of Queen's Bench in October 2002, the tobacco companies won an appeal in October 2003.  The Supreme Court will be reviewing the case on on Wednesday, January 19, 2005.

Two other Canadian jurisdictions (Manitoba and Nunavut) have tried to ban retail displays of cigarettes but, like Saskatchewan, have elected to suspend their measures while the Saskatchewan law is under court appeal. The new Ontario government had made an election commitment to ban retail displays, but its recently revealed legislation does not bind the government to ban displays.

"Individual retailers and major retail chains have shown they are willing to help tobacco companies recruit children to smoking, and their trade association is working to protect this harmful corporate practice," said Dr. Kapur.

Intervening on behalf of the tobacco companies will be  the Western Convenience Store Association, whose members include Petro Canada, Husky Energy, 7-Eleven, Mac's Convenience Stores, Imperial Oil and Short Stop Foods.

The Saskatchewan government will be supported in its case by the federal government and the provincial governments of BC, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and PEI, as well as Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Lung Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

"Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh should not allow this case to deflect from his responsibility to protect Canadian children tobacco promotions," said Dr. Kapur.  "Six years have passed since Health Canada circulated proposals to curb these promotions. His department's research has shown that retailers are not willing to voluntarily change their behaviour and that government intervention is needed."

Health Canada reports show that the percentage of retailers willing to sell cigarettes to children has scarcely changed sine surveys were started in 1996, and remains around 30%.

Interestingly, the year that Saskatchewan's ban on display was in effect, Saskatchewan's retailers were the most likely to respect the law on sales to minors.  In September 2003, only 7% of Saskatchewan retailers were willing to break the law, compared with 29% nation-wide. [2]

For Information:  Cynthia Callard (613) 233 4878


[1] Tobacco Industry semi-annual reports on promotional expenditures filed with Health Canada (beginning 2001), and released under Access to Information (January 2005)


period total amount paid to retailers for promoting tobacco products number of  retailers receiving payments (see note) average retailer payment
2001 jan-jun $34,115,932.88 60,551 $563.42
2001 jul-dec $40,353,758.40 73,218 $551.15
2002 jan-jun $32,683,025.45 63,163 $517.44
2002 jul-dec $44,540,242.51 69,954 $636.71
2003 jan-jun $40,715,910.76 65,000 $626.40
2003 jul-dec $47,249,905.00 48,187 $980.55
2004 jan-jun $43,435,796.12 49,547 $876.66

note: This number overstates the number of retailers actively promoting cigarettes, as retailers who receive payments from more than one tobacco company will be counted more than once.  The average amount an individual retail will receive for all promotions is thus higher than shown in this table.

[ 2]   Retailer willingness to sell cigarettes to children, 1996 - 2003.

Related information:

Presence of tobacco advertising in Canadian retail stores, 1996 - 2003.

PSC Press release calling on federal health minister to restrict retail displays, October 2003.

*  please note the first paragraph in this news release was amended at 3:00 p.m. January 17, 2004