News Release

June 28, 2007

New Tobacco Law Needed

doctors' group welcomes Minister Clement's commitment to monitor and respond to tobacco industry marketing.

 (Ottawa) –A Canadian doctor-led health charity welcomes the response of Canada's Health Minister, Tony Clement, to the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the 1997 Tobacco Act.

“The Tobacco Act was a weak law in 1997, and from today forward its weaknesses will become more apparent,” explained Dr. Atul Kapur, president of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC).

"The immediate commitment of the Minister to monitor carefully the marketing activities of tobacco companies, to address remaining loop-holes in the law and to ensure the law is as modern as it can be is a very good sign," he said.

Dr. Kapur explained that the major tobacco companies have voluntarily restrained from advertising during their challenge to the constitutionality of the Tobacco Act, but that this self-restraint is expected to evaporate the moment that the court makes its ruling.

“A decade ago, the tobacco company lawyers adopted a legal strategy of arguing that the federal law was so difficult to interpret that the effect was the same as a total ban on advertising,” explained Dr. Kapur. “Had they known that it would take so long for a final court ruling, they might have taken an approach that did not prevent them from exploiting the weaknesses in the law without exposing the disingenuousness of their lawyers’ claims.”

 The Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Tobacco Act comes in the same week that senior Canadian officials working on tobacco control leave to participate at a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, to discuss progress on the 2005 global tobacco treaty.  “Canada has made an international treaty commitment to implement a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising by 2010, but there is no reason to wait that long to introduce new legislation,” said Dr. Kapur.

“Most developed democracies, with lamentable exceptions like the United States, have banned tobacco advertising. Canada is virtually unique in permitting cigarette ads and not even requiring health warning labels.”

Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires Canada to ban tobacco advertising ‘in accordance with its constitutional principles.

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