Press Release

August 15, 2012

Australian court ruling shows that governments should stand up to tobacco industry bullying.

Today's decision by Australia's highest court that plain packaging is consistent with constitutionally protected property rights should encourage Health Canada to be less concerned about tobacco industry business interests when developing health regulations, said Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada today.

"Although Canada was the first country to require graphic health warnings and the first government to consider plain packaging, it has consistently pulled back from making its regulations as strong as research justifies in order to protect tobacco industry commercial interests," said Cynthia Callard.

One example of this was the decision to make health warnings 75%, even though Health Canada's own research showed that larger warnings would be more effective, Callard said.

"Health Canada acknowledged that 90% or 100% warnings would be most effective, but decided to give lower priority to those health benefits than to allowing the industry to promote its brands on the cigarette package."

[The wording in the regulatory impact assessment was: While both studies showed that both the 90% and 100% size options had the greatest potential to increase the effectiveness of the health warnings compared to the 50% option, particularly in communicating the health risks of tobacco use, the Department of Health chose to retain 75%; this option was seen as offering a balance between improving the effectiveness of the health warnings as a vehicle to communicate with Canadians, and providing users with product-related information.]

Health Canada hoped that by softening its regulations, it could avoid the trouble and expense of a court challenge, Callard said.  Nonetheless,  the the tobacco companies have challenged even the smaller warnings.  Health Canada has yet to make public its response to the April court challenge by Imperial Tobacco and other tobacco companies.

Australians benefit from having a government with the courage to stand up against tobacco companies and to implement high standards of tobacco packaging regulations, said Callard.

"Australia punches above its weight when it comes to dealing with big tobacco. Meanwhile, the Canadian government either pulls its punches or decides not to punch at all."

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For information:  Cynthia Callard  613 233 4878