Pack as advertising: Canada

Nov 15, 2010

Even as Health Canada shies away from new and more graphic cigarette warning labels, an Ottawa research director says current packaging is illegal.

Advertising and promotion on packages contravene the Tobacco Act, said Neil Collishaw, of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

“Health Canada has decided what they put on the packaging doesn’t count as advertising,” he said.

The Tobacco Act bans any promotion and advertising of tobacco products except as specifically authorized. The only exceptions are for publications addressed to an adult or signs in places where youth are not legally allowed.

Slogans – like “this is your Peter Jackson, created to fit your taste,” or Rothman’s “Unlimited by Design, Defined by Taste” – abound on cigarette packs, Collishaw said.

Belmont cigarettes (“Taste Matters”) recently released limited edition packs in four different designs – a “particularly egregious” promotion, he said

Collishaw has asked Health Canada how the Tobacco Act permits advertising on cigarette packages.

“We’ve never received a good answer.”

Nor has QMI Agency. A Health Canada spokesman took two business days to e-mail this reply: “The Tobacco Act imposes restrictions on promotion done through packaging.”

Rob Cunningham, a lawyer and senior policy adviser analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, disagreed with Collishaw’s interpretation of the law. He favours plain packaging, but said it was not intended or discussed when the Act was created in 1997.

Plain packaging is inevitable, he said, but it will more likely result from lobbying efforts in light of Australia’s decision to mandate plain packs starting in 2012.

He also condemned Health Canada for shelving proposed new warnings while on Wednesday, the United States health department released 36 new and graphic images. Nine will appear on U.S. cigarette packs in the next two years.

“I haven’t heard a clear reason as to why Health Canada is not moving ahead,” Cunningham said.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said only that Health Canada “is not ready to move forward at this time.”

She did not address Collishaw’s allegations.

The decision also angered Ottawa youth.

As many as 70 high school and university students were on Parliament Hill on Friday to protest the decision to spike the new warnings.

Kale Brown, a youth co-ordinator with student anti-tobacco organization Expose, said young people need something “catchy and shocking” so they’ll heed the dangers of smoking.

“Something 10 years old isn’t as effective,” he said.


Source: Toronto Sun (November 15, 2010)