News Releases

Court Ruling Should Hasten Rules on Light Cigarettes

March 24, 2003

An Illinois court ruling against Philip Morris should spur Health Canada to ban the use of cigarette package labels 'light' and 'mild' says a Canadian physicians' organization.

"The U.S. court decision only adds to a substantial body of evidence supporting the banning of the terms "light" and "mild"," said Dr. Atul Kapur, president of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.  "It's time for the Minister of Health to stop delaying and to order Canadian tobacco companies to stop using them."

On Friday, March 21, Illinois judge Nicholas Byron found that Philip Morris in violation of that state's Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.  He ordered the company to pay US$10 billion in damages and said that "the course of conduct by Philip Morris related to its fraud in this case is outrageous, both because Philip Morris' motive was evil and the acts showed a reckless disregard for the consumers' rights."

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada has again written the Minister of Health, the Hon. Anne McLellan and the Minister of Justice, the Hon. Martin Cauchon, to urge them to accelerate a ban on misleading cigarette descriptors.

Almost two years have passed since the former Minister of Health asked Canadian tobacco companies to stop using terms like 'light' and 'mild' on Canadian cigarettes on May 31, 2001.  In December 2001, Health Canada issued a notice of intent to regulate an end to the use of 'light' and 'mild,' but no regulatory action has occurred since.

"The Minister has said more than once that she needs to get her 'ducks in a row' before she can protect Canadians from misleading cigarette packaging," said Dr. Kapur.  "This court ruling is one more duck in a long row."

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For information:    Cynthia Callard             613 233 4878


Recent events on light and mild.

  • May 2001
    The European Union adopted a directive ending the use of terms "light" and "mild" as of September 30, 2003.

  • October 2001
    The Ministerial Advisory Council on Tobacco released the findings of an expert committee and recommended an end to the use of misleading descriptors.

  • November 2001
    The U.S.
    National Institute of Health released a thorough review of scientific evidence in a monograph “Risks Associated with Smoking Cigarettes with Low Machine-Measured Yields of Tar and Nicotine” and concluded that there were no health benefits to smoking lower-yield cigarettes.

  • January 2002
    Brazilian ban on the use of terms 'light' and 'mild' on cigarette packages comes into effect.

  • November 2002
    The World Health Organization Scientific Advisory Committee on Tobacco Product Regulation recommended a ban on all misleading health and exposure claims and related packaging.

  • December 2002
    Health Canada research shows that 2 of every 3 smokers of 'light' cigarettes switched to light based on the belief that there would be fewer health risks.

  • December 2002
    The Quebec Superior Court upheld the federal Tobacco Act against an industry claim of unconstitutionality/

  • December 2002
    The European Court of Justice rejected a tobacco industry challenge to the EU directive banning the terms  'light' and 'mild',

  • February 2003
    Member states of the World Health Organization (including Canada) agree to a treaty text which includes obligations to end the use of terms, trademarks and other elements which create an erroneous impression that one product is less harmful (which may permit light and mild).