News Backgrounder

October 3, 2003

“The Ball Is In Your Court”
Doctors call on federal Health
Minister and parliamentarians to restore Saskatchewan’s ban on retail displays of cigarettes

 (Ottawa) - Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada is calling for the federal government to move quickly to protect children in Saskatchewan and elsewhere from cigarette promotions in retail stores.  This call comes on the heels of a decision by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal that the Saskatchewan ban on retail displays of cigarettes conflicts with federal law.

 “The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has unexpectedly thrown this issue into the lap of the federal Minister of Health,” said Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC).  “There are several steps the Minister can take right away to preserve this important health measure.”

 Among the measures PSC suggests the minister should take are: 

  • Completing the regulatory steps to restrict retail displays
    Health Canada began the regulatory process in January 1999, and issued a discussion paper which proposed several ways to restrict retail displays.  The process became stalled in 1999 and no further steps were taken.

  • Amending the federal Tobacco Act to clarify that provincial governments also have the authority to ban cigarette displays
    A small addition to the Act would clarify that provincial governments have this power. 

  • Amending the federal Tobacco Act to ban all retail displays of cigarettes
    Instead of passing regulations to control retail displays, as originally envisaged in the Tobacco Act, parliament can ban displays using language similar to that in the Saskatchewan and Manitoba laws.

 “Tobacco companies continue to market their products aggressively near the cash and candy counter in convenience stores and other retail outlets and there is growing support for legislation to end that malicious marketing practice,” said Ms. Callard.  “The governments of Manitoba and Saskatchewan have both passed laws to ban retail displays, and the newly-elected government of Ontario proposed this measure in its election platform.”

 “There is broad pan-political support for measures to protect children from tobacco marketing,” said Callard.  “I am confidant that no parliamentarian wants to see the federal law stand in the way of provincial measures and that the Minister of Health will have unanimous support for a fast response to this regrettable court decision.