July 14, 2010 - The federal government on Tuesday, July 13th proposed an amendment to the Tobacco Act that would repeal an exception that currently allows tobacco advertising in publications with an adult readership of at least 85 percent. If the bill is passed, the revised Tobacco Act would leave tobacco companies with only two possible methods to advertise: signs in places where minors are prohibited, such as bars, and in publications that are delivered by mail to an adult. In provinces where advertising is already banned in bars, such as Quebec, or other restrictions are in place, tobacco companies may have even fewer options.
At a news conference to announce details of Bill C-32, which also includes a ban on flavoured cigarettes and cigarillos and a requirement for the mini-cigars to be sold in packages of at least 20, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the tougher advertising regulations are in response to a "wave" of tobacco advertising in the last few years in publications that are easily accessible by young people. (Bill C-32: An Act to amend the Tobacco Act...)
"Of particular concern are the many free publications with contents that appeal to teens and are now available in curbside boxes, at small malls, and bus stops in just about every community in this country," said Aglukkaq, who was referring primarily to free commuter newspapers and entertainment weeklies.
It's impossible to restrict access by young people to the free publications or to determine if the readership is at least 85 per cent adult, according to a background document provided by the government, which also dated the resurgence of advertising to at least the fall of 2007 and said it has exposed young audiences to tobacco sales pitches.
"It's time to close the gap so that the current generation of teens is not bombarded by tobacco advertising that makes smoking look cool," the health minister said.
Flavoured tobacco is commonly used in cigarillos, which the government says are the fastest growing tobacco product on the Canadian market. According to government statistics, 400 million of them were sold in Canada in 2007 compared to only 53 million six years earlier. They are often sold individually, for less than $2, or in "kiddie packs" of four to eight cigarillos.
They come in a range of fruit and candy flavours such as tropical punch, chocolate mint, strawberry, peach and vanilla, and critics say the packages are designed to look like markers, lip gloss and other products popular with young people.
"These types of marketing strategies have to stop. Tobacco is not candy and should never be mistaken as such," said the health minister.
In addition to banning the addition of flavours, thenew Tobacco Act would prohibit pictures or graphics of fruit or additives on the packaging so that products cannot even give the appearance of having a flavour. The bill also would bring cigarillos and blunt wraps in line with the packaging requirements for cigarettes, which mandate a minimum quantity of 20 in each package, thereby making them less affordable to young people.
Many of the proposals contained in Bill C-32 were also in a private member's bill introduced recently by the NDP's Judy Wasylycia-Leis. The MP said Tuesday she is happy the Tories "have taken up my challenge, which was to steal my private member's bill and run with it." (Canada: a bill introduced to snuff out drive to recruit young smokers..)
Health and anti-smoking groups also welcomed the proposals, which were promised by the Conservatives during the last election.
However, one of Canada's major distributors of cigarillos, Casa Cubana, has described the government's move as "purely anti-business legislation" and said it will fuel the already-thriving contraband tobacco market. "This is just purely about attacking the industry," company spokesman Luc Martial said in an interview earlier in the week.
Reference: Feds set new restrictions on tobacco marketing by Meagan Fitzpatrick, Canwest News Service, The Province, 7/13/2010.
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Still sucking our youngsters in...