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November 27, 2003

"Bully Tactics Won't Work" -

(Ottawa) -  Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada joined several other Canadian health groups in condemning the attempt by the three multinational tobacco companies operating in Canada to silence their critics. These three companies - Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., JTI-Macdonald Ltd., and Rothmans, Bensons and Hedges Ltd. have all threatened the director of a not-for-profit agency l'Association régionale du Sport étudiant de Québec/Chaudière Appalaches - ARSEQCA) with legal action. They have also threatened the advertising company and web-site providers which developed the material on the agency's anti-tobacco web-site, De Facto. 

"The tobacco companies have spent millions of dollars in legal fees arguing that restrictions on tobacco advertising are an unfair infringement on their freedom of speech," said Cynthia Callard, PSC's executive director.  "Hypocritically, they have asked these same lawyers to intimidate a health group into relinquishing its freedom of expression." 

Between October 2, 2003 and October 24, 2003 each of the three companies has pressured the Quebec youth and sports group, ARSEQCA to remove so-called offensive material from its web-site (www.defacto.ca).

Rothmans Benson and Hedges complained of salary disclosure and unflattering advertisements.

On October 2, Rothmans Benson and Hedges sent a "Notice" (available by clicking here), demanding the sports group remove the following two items from its website:

  1. the advertisement "Is there anything worth celebrating"
    (The French text can be roughly translated as: "By smoking 475,000 young Canadians between 10 and 19 years old contribute to the profits of the tobacco companies.  Is that worth celebrating?"

(view the television ad in Quicktime format by clicking here). 
(listen to the three radio advertisements in their original French here.  first.  second.  third. )

  1. Rothmans Benson and Hedges' Chief Executive officer's name (John Barnett) and his salary (which is reported to and made public by the Ontario Securities Commission as $744,357 salary, with a bonus of $499,599 and a Long Term Incentive Plan payment of $1,261,277).  That's more than $12,000 per day.
    (view the OSC filing here).

JTI-MacDonald complained that De Facto revealed the names of its executives and the fact that it targeted youth in its marketing.

Three weeks after Rothmans demanded a retraction from de Facto, JTI-MacDonald sent its own rambling and vaguely worded complaint to De Facto (available by clicking here). JTI-Macdonald's lawyers demanded that the web-site not include the name of its company or its officers (Andrew Shannon and Michel Poirier).  It also demanded that all statements regarding the targeting of youth ('les jeunes') be retracted. 

This was in spite of a ruling against the company by Judge Andre Denis who reviewed thousands of pages of internal marketing documents from JTI-MacDonald and other companies.  Judge Denis said in his ruling at paragraph 527: 

 "Fact: There is incontrovertible evidence that advertising and sponsorship encourage people, especially adolescents to consumer tobacco products."

(View Judge Denis' entire ruling here in English or in French)

JTI objected to a citation in the report from the government's marketing expert witness, Richard Pollay.  On page 16 of his report, Pollay cited a JTI-Macdonald document which stated, "New smokers are critical to continued growth in the market."). 
(Professor Pollay's complete expert witness report is available here - D57 How Cigarette Promotion works).

JTI-MacDonald lawyers complain that this quote was taken out of context.  As counter-argument they provide their own out-of-context quotes from the same document.  The entire document is available here (D226.  JTI Competitive Business Development). The citation given by Rick Pollay can be found on page 14 of this document and the citation given by the JTI-MacDonald lawyers can be found on page 48.

Another example of a JTI-Macdonald document showing this company targeting young adults in its marketing efforts can be downloaded here.  (D-175 - Export A Family Brand Positioning Statement).

Judge Denis was not fooled by tobacco industry counter-argument and the use of isolated out-of-context quotes.  He reviewed these documents in their entirety and dozens of others too, and then concluded in paragraph 122 of his judgement:

"The court does not believe that cigarette advertising is solely aimed at smokers over 19 years of age.  All the advertising campaigns contain elements that are attractive to the young people who are the industry's future.  The tobacco companies are well aware that most people start smoking between the ages of 12 and 18 and systematically target this susceptible age groups with its advertising and marketing."

(View Judge Denis' entire ruling here in English or in French)

Imperial Tobacco complained that De Facto insinuated that it promotes tobacco to youth.


In a four-page threatening letter dated October 24, 2003 (available here), Imperial Tobacco's lawyers said they wanted de Facto to "cease immediately all publication and distribution, in all forms, that insinuate or affirm that our clients illegally promote the sale of tobacco products to children and adolescents."


Hundreds of Imperial Tobacco documents have been made public over the past decade which show that the company's marketing department repeatedly studied the behaviour of children as young as 13. 


Even among the smaller selection of documents made public during the recent trial of the Tobacco Act, there were several which showed Imperial Tobacco's interest in young smokers.  Here is an example:


“Marketing activities have historically been and continue to be targeted at younger smokers due to their greater propensity to change brands.”
(The citation is from page 50 of D-176, “Trademark strategies and projects – 1995 – Market strategy and development, Imperial Tobacco.  View the entire document here).

"De Facto set out to expose the truth about big tobacco," said Callard  "and to do so in a way that captured the attention of young Quebecers who might otherwise by seduced into tobacco addiction by the heavy marketing of these big tobacco companies." 

Callard said that De Facto's strategy was reminiscent of the successful Florida Truth Campaign (link here) and the Minnesota Target Market Campaign (link here).  "Like these effective U.S. campaigns, De Facto provides young people with the tools they need to protect themselves from tobacco industry marketing."

"The attempts by these three bullying tobacco companies to intimidate a small and poorly-resourced youth group should only strengthen the public view that these companies do not conduct their business in socially responsible or ethical ways," concluded Callard.

To illustrate the inappropriateness of the tobacco industry legal threats against ARSEQCA, PSC has made the so-called 'offending material' from De Facto available on this web-site.  The entire ' offending material' can be downloaded in PDF form here.

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For information:     Cynthia Callard  or Neil Collishaw   
                            613 233 4878