News release

 Non-Smokers’ Rights Association 
 Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada

January 22, 2003

Health Minister Challenged to Follow Through on Big Ticket Tobacco Control Measures

OTTAWA - On the occasion of National Non-Smoking Week, Canadian health groups are calling on the federal government to make the necessary law reform and policy changes needed to reduce the disease caused by tobacco industry products.  The health agencies, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association, are making a particular plea to health minister Anne McLellan to follow through with critical initiatives started by her predecessor.

 “Tobacco remains the number one preventable killer of Canadians,” explained Garfield Mahood, NSRA executive director.  “While smoking cessation initiatives are important, the most effective way to cut tobacco-caused illness and death is through law reform and public policy change.  We cannot afford to have effective policy and legislative measures abandoned just because cabinets are shuffled.”

 The agencies are concerned that the minister is not following through with earlier commitments to ban deceptive tobacco packaging and to pass the promised regulations that could curb the hidden promotion of cigarettes in thousands of retail outlets across Canada.  The recent decisions by the minister to cut $13 million from the budget of her department’s tobacco program combined with the apparent abandonment of regulations to ban deceptive terms like ‘light’ and ‘mild’, say the agencies, are particularly disturbing.  They fear that the tobacco file no longer has a champion in the federal cabinet.

 “Over a year has passed, and the Minister has yet to demonstrate leadership on this issue,” said Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.  “She has ignored most of the recommendations of her own Ministerial Advisory Council and has cancelled its meetings.  She has also put on ice regulatory proposals which were set for implementation when she took office.

 Canada has made significant progress against the use of tobacco industry products with smoking rates falling from 29% to only 22% in the past five years.  “Today’s progress is due to yesterday’s policy decisions,” said Callard.  “The drop in smoking only happened after the government recovered from the fiasco of reducing taxes in 1994, and adopted effective tobacco policies, in particular raising taxes and implementing new health warnings.”

 The groups also fear that the current gains will stall or reverse if the government falters on the regulatory path set out in the Tobacco Act.  “Until regulations are developed, the Tobacco Act remains largely a hollow framework,” said Mahood.  “Other than the package warnings introduced by Allan Rock, few effective regulatory steps have been taken.  Canada remains one of the very few developed countries not to require health warnings on tobacco promotions.  Internet cigarette advertising is growing.  Yet the minister has been silent on the promised regulation of tobacco promotion, especially in retail stores.”

 The current focus of the minister of health on encouraging Canadians to stop smoking is “not so much misguided as insufficient,” in the view of the groups.  “Health Canada should encourage smokers to quit,” said Callard.  “But work with individuals cannot substitute for the government’s responsibility to implement the law reform which will have the greatest potential to cut illness and death.”

 The groups are calling the minister of health to follow through on the promise to ban the use of deceptive package descriptors, such as ‘light’ and ‘mild’, and to ban the promotion of tobacco, that is so evident in retail outlets.  They are also calling on her to restore the cuts she imposed on the tobacco program and to focus the mass media campaign on the tobacco industry’s role in the tobacco epidemic (also known as ‘tobacco industry denormalization’.)

For more information, contact:


Cynthia Callard, executive director,
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada

(613) 233-4878


Garfield Mahood, executive director,
Non-Smokers’ Rights Association

(416) 928-2900, Cell: (416) 451-4285


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