A Review of Cigarette Marketing in Canada -- 4th Edition -- Winter 2003

On October 1, 2003,
the Tobacco Act
came fully into effect.

On that day, the exemption provided for sponsorship promotion from the general prohibition on lifestyle advertising came into effect.

Tobacco advertising is not banned in Canada, but it is restricted by a law which contains many seemingly contradictory provisions, without establishing a clear hierarchy between those provisions which prohibit advertising, and those which allow it. 

The Tobacco Act
explicitly prohibits:

All forms of promotion not explicitly allowed (s. 19)
False advertising (s. 20)
Testimonials in favour of tobacco (s. 21)
Brand stretching through products or services associated with young people, or with lifestyles (s. 27 and 28)
Imported advertising where the publiation or broadcast is under the control of a person in Canada (s. 31)

which "are associated with young persons or could be construed on reasonable grounds to be appealing to young persons; or (b) is associated with a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.


The Tobacco Act
specifically allows

Tobacco promotions which are "information advertising or brand-preference advertising" (s. 22) in

"a publication that is provided by mail and addressed to an adult who is identified by name;"
"a publication that has an adult readership of not less than eighty-five per cent;"
" signs in a place where young persons are not permitted by law."

The use of brand names and logos on accessories (s. 26)
Brand stretching through products and services which are not associated with young people or lifestyles (s. 27)
Display at retail (s. 30)
Imported publications, broadcasts. (s. 31)

There have been virtually no guidelines issued since the was passed almost seven years ago, and the interpretation of the law has - without formal notice - changed during that period.  (An example of a changed interpretation would be whether a web-site was a "publication" within the meaning of the law ).

PSC has prepared a list of interpretation questions which have not yet been answered.   (PDF)


The complete Legislation:
Tobacco Act, 1997

►Explanatory text
Health Canada fact sheet on sponsorship promotion

Related Documents:

Reasons to celebrate the end of sponsorship.

Interpreting the Tobacco ACt
Tobacco Promotions After October 1, 2003

A brief history of tobacco laws in Canada

1988:  Parliament says "No" to any tobacco advertisements

(15 years later, they’re still there)

There were no restrictions on tobacco advertising in 1988.

►  before 1988

Tobacco companies had no legal restrictions on their advertisign, but followed a voluntary code which did not allow for television advertising, and which required a health warning (not very big!) on print advertisements.  It also set a cap on advertising expenditures.

May 1988:

Parliament passes C-51 (Tobacco Products Control Act) and bans all tobacco ads – including billboards and retail ads.  Sponsorship advertising is only permitted for ‘corporate’ names, not brand names (i.e. IMASCO jazz, not du Maurier Jazz)


Tobacco companies incorporate brand names (i.e. du Maurier Jazz Ltd.) to circumvent the law and keep on using billboard and retail ads.


 Sept 1995:       

Supreme Court strikes down Tobacco Products Control Act because the government fails to provide evidence that a total ban is necessary to reduce smoking. The judges say nothing about sponsorship advertising.

1988 - 1995
Sponsorship ads were a way to promote cigarette brand names  -- with no health warning required.

1996 - 1997
After the collapse of the Tobacco Products Control Act, the tobacco companies instituted a new voluntary code which banned human figures and required a somewhat larger health warning.

 April 1997:       

Tobacco Act proclaimed. Tobacco advertising isn’t totally banned – but billboard and retail advertising is.  Sponsorship ads are allowed to remain on billboards and in stores until October 1, 1998.

 June 1998:       

C-42 introduced.  It allows billboard and retail ads to continue for a further two years.

 October 1, 1998:              

Deadline to remove billboards and retail promotion for tobacco-brand sponsorships is not enforced.

 December 10, 1998:

Bill C-42 receives Royal Assent. Off-site sponsorship advertising allowed until October 1, 2000; Sponsorships banned October 1, 2003, but promotions allowed to continue by direct mail, in publications with 85% adult readership (such as daily newspapers) and in places where young persons are not allowed to enter.

1997 - 2003
Following the enactment of the Tobacco Act, the companies restored human figures to their ads, and stopped putting in health warnings.  Such is progress.

October 1, 2000:

The first set of restrictions on sponsorship promotion come into effect.  Sponsorship promotions are limited to direct mail, places where young people are not permitted by law, and publications.


October 1, 2003:

The complete set of restrictions on sponsorship promotion come into effect. 


2000 - 2003
Industry responds to ban on billboards by creating new sponsored events for bars and nightclubs.  Cigarette girls return.  Lots of lifestyle.  No health warnings.

post - 2003
Web publications become focus of continued industry promotion.  Party on!

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