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Letter to the Minister of Health:
Curb Tobacco Promotions.

November 11, 2002

Honourable Anne McLellan
Minister of Health
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A OA6

Dear Minister McLellan:

We are writing today to urge you to direct your department to address the legal and regulatory weaknesses that have allowed Imperial Tobacco to use lifestyle advertising to launch  “KOOL” and “KOOL FROST” cigarettes in Canada.

There are at least five problems with the federal regulatory system illustrated through the launch of KOOL cigarettes.  These are:

  • Internet advertising of cigarettes.
    KOOL cigarettes were launched through the creation of a new web-site, marketing nightclub events.  Long after the events are passed, the web-site continues to show KOOL cigarettes in a club atmosphere – a highly compelling marketing image.  Imperial Tobacco has been able to take advantage of the world wide web, despite the fact that it is not one of the four ‘allowable’ venues for tobacco or sponsorship advertising (i.e., on site of sponsored events, by direct mail to adults, in publications with 85% adult readership, in venues where minors are not allowed by law).
     

  • Cross border advertising of cigarettes
    KOOL is the first international brand to be launched by BAT since it assumed total direction of Imperial Tobacco two years ago.  KOOL cigarettes are advertised through car racing and advertisements in imported publications popular with young Canadians. 
     

  • Retail displays of cigarettes
    The greatest proportion of the tobacco advertising budget is spent on retail promotions. Although two provinces have moved to protect children from retail displays of cigarettes, your department has taken no steps to regulate these displays, even though it proposed to do so almost four years ago.
     

  • No health warnings on cigarette advertising.
    Canada is almost alone among developed countries in not requiring health warning labels on tobacco promotions.  Although your predecessor, the Hon. Allan Rock, proposed four years ago that health warning messages would be required on all tobacco promotions, no regulations to this effect have yet been drafted. Many promotions will be allowed (including nightclub signs) even after the ban on sponsorships takes effect next October.
     

  • Misleading descriptors
    Imperial Tobacco has responded to your predecessor’s proposals to ban ‘light’ and ‘mild’ by using alternative terms on their newly-introduced products.  The KOOL package carries the terms ‘frost’ to convey a lower tar delivery, even though there is no likelihood that smokers of the ‘frost’ brand will inhale lower levels of harmful substances.

Health Canada has shown through the requirements for health warnings on cigarettes that federal tobacco regulations can play a powerful role in protecting public health. We understand that your regulators are working on improvements to the reporting and disclosure regulations.  Without diminishing the importance of those housekeeping measures, we urge you to give priority to the development of regulations which will require health warnings on all promotions, and which will end the use of misleading descriptors. 

We note with concern that Imperial Tobacco is able to use sponsorship advertising for a brand which was not even on the market when the Tobacco Act was introduced, despite promises that these extensions were grandfathering provisions.  “Minister Rock emphasized that the [sponsorship advertising] extension applies only to events and groups receiving sponsorship funds from tobacco companies when the Tobacco Act came into force on April 25, 1997” reads Health Canada’s press release of June 3, 1998.  KOOL cigarettes were not even for sale in Canada at that time, yet BAT/Imperial Tobacco has been able to launch new events without impediment.

We look forward to discussing with you ways in which we can support the strengthening of Canada’s health protection regime.

(signed)

Canadian Cancer Society
Ken Kyle

Coalition québecoise pour le contrôle du tabac
Louis Gauvin

Non-Smokers’ Rights Association
Garfield Mahood

Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco
Michael Perley,

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
Cynthia Callard

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