News releases

April 26, 1999

Tobacco Company Breaking Law, says Doctors’ Group

(Ottawa) - On the second anniversary of the Tobacco Act, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC) is calling on Health Minister Allan Rock to take enforcement action against Rothmans, Benson & Hedges.  PSC claims that RBH's new cigarette brand, "Canadian Classics Light" breaks the law's ban on testimonials.

The Tobacco Act is unambiguous," said PSC president, Dr. Mark Taylor. "Testimonials are illegal. Yet RBH has printed a testimonial on each and every package of its new cigarette brand – and each and every package of matches used to promote the brand."

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"This is clearly a deliberate provocation by Rothmans, Benson & Hedges," said Dr. Taylor. "Health Canada’s response will show whether or not the new Tobacco Act has teeth."

In February 1999, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges launched a new brand, Canadian Classics Light. The following endorsement is printed on both packages and promotional matches for this brand:

"Only the finest Canadian Tobacco" – Douglas Kilpatrick, Master Tobacco Blender

The Tobacco Act, passed by parliament in April 1997, clearly bans such promotions. Section 21 (1) of the law says "No person shall promote a tobacco product by means of a testimonial or an endorsement, however displayed or communicated" The maximum penalty for contravention of this section is $300,000 or two years in prison.

Despite the constitutional challenge by Canada’s cigarette companies, the Tobacco Act has been in force for almost two years. In that time, no charges have been laid against the companies, although Health Canada has received several complaints of infractions.

Canada’s three tobacco companies have challenged the Tobacco Act in court. "RBH has moved beyond a court appeal to a direct challenge of parliamentary law," said Dr. Taylor.

PSC is calling on the Minister of Health to demand that the offending cigarettes and matches be withdrawn from the market, and to lay charges against Rothmans, Benson & Hedges.

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For information, call:  Cynthia Callard  (613) 233 - 4878