Tobacco Crackdown Stirs Both Applause and Anger
TORONTO (AP) _ The government’s plan to ban tobacco advertising has won praise from anti- smoking groups but cigarette makers, tobacco farmers, the advertising industry and sports promoters are not happy.
Passage of the government bill, to be introduced next week, ″will put Canada in the forefront of the international drive against the tobacco industry,″ Gar Mahood of the Non-Smokers Rights Association told The Associated Press on Friday.
″We’ll tip a glass when the ink dries on this one,″ said Mahood, a veteran anti-tobacco campaigner. He claims smoking directly contributes to 35,000 deaths a year in Canada.
″Doctors from coast to coast will applaud this legislation,″ said Doug Geekie of the Canadian Medical Association.
On the other side is Jean-Louis Mercier, chairman of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, who said the law would cost 2,000-2,500 jobs in the advertising industry.
″Advertising never made anybody smoke,″ he said. ″We are outraged by the decision of the federal government to practice censorship.″
Tobacco Council president Norm MacDonald said similar bans in Italy, Norway, Finland and Singapore have not lowered tobacco consumption.
Health Minister Jake Epp announced the program Wednesday. Under it, tobacco advertising in newspapers will be forbidden as of Jan. 1, 1988, and the ban will extend to billboards, magazines and sponsorship of sports and cultural events a year later.
Also planned are smoking restrictions in federal workplaces by the end of this year, more explicit warnings on cigarette packages and penalties of up to $100,000 and six months in jail for violating advertising or labeling regulations.
Canada’s 25 million people include 7 million smokers. The tobacco industry spends $70 million ($52 million U.S.) a year on advertising and another $10 million ($7.5 million U.S.) on sponsorship.
Tobacco companies may fight back by using that money to lower prices, but the government could counter with higher taxes.
Tom Crowther, chairman of the Canadian Daily Newspaper Publishers Association, said he objects in principle: ″The government is, in essence, telling the free press what it will or won’t print.″
Public employees, through the 180,000-member Public Service Alliance of Canada, said they would demand ventilated smoking rooms and government-paid courses to help smokers quit.
The federal government joined with Ontario province in a $30 million ($22 million U.S.) aid program to encourage some of the 2,000 small-acreage tobacco farmers in southern Ontario to plant other crops.
Mayors of Simcoe and Delhi, in tobacco-growing townships, described the federal ban as ″a kick in the head″ for an already struggling region.
The anti-smoking proposals are virtually certain to pass because Conservative government has 208 members compared to 40 for the Liberals and 30 for the New Democratic Party.