Regulating the Marketing of Tobacco Products and Controlling Smoking in Canada

By Wyckham, Robert G | Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration, June 1997 | Go to article overview
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Regulating the Marketing of Tobacco Products and Controlling Smoking in Canada

Wyckham, Robert G, Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration


The past two decades have seen an escalating struggle among the tobacco industry, the government, and antismoking organizations in Canada. Increasingly, the marketing and the consumption of tobacco products have been constrained. After the passage of the Tobacco Products Control Act and the Non-smokers' Health Act in 1988, Canada was said to have among the world's strongest tobacco promotion and smoking regulations. Now that key provisions of the Tobacco Products Control Act have been struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada and new legislation has been introduced in Parliament, it seems appropriate to examine the history of the regulation of tobacco products marketing and the control of smoking in this county. This paper provides a snapshot of tobacco sales since the 1960s and outlines the chronology of past attempts to govern the marketing of cigarettes and to constrain smoking. Based on this experience it is recommended that a new organizational approach be examined. A quasi-crown corporation staffed by experts in consumer package goods marketing is suggested as a way to counter the sophisticated tactics and strategies of the tobacco industry.

In many important tobacco markets, there is a current running in favour of more stringent control of the advertising and promotion of cigarettes. The Canadian government banned all tobacco advertising and restricted sponsorships in 1988. Having now lost key sections of that legislation in the courts, the government recently introduced a new tobacco control law to Parliament. In the United States, the Federal Drug Administration has released new restrictions on the marketing of tobacco products. Some American states are considering legislation to disallow tobacco advertising as an expense for tax purposes. France has legislation designed to prohibit tobacco advertising in all media. Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Portugal have banned the advertising of tobacco products. Similar bans were introduced in nine Eastern European countries, but have since been repealed (Toxic Substances Board, 1989, p. xxxiii). Sweden, Singapore, and Italy have legislated bans. The European Parliament, which has legislated an interdiction on tobacco advertising on television, is tightening up the regulation of cigarette advertising on other media. New Zealand, Australia, and Thailand have passed legislation that bans tobacco advertising, requires health warnings on packages, and increases tobacco taxes. Japan and South Africa are said to be considering the elimination of cigarette advertising.

Typically, new conclusions from research by health authorities or the response of anti-smoking lobby groups to cigarette advertising initiatives revives the seemingly dormant movement to curtail cigarette marketing. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pronouncement that second-hand tobacco smoke can cause cancer created a stir. Joe Camel's antics have raised the ire of antismoking lobbyists and health authorities. The Uptown campaign aimed at African Americans resulted in a storm of protest. In Canada, during the time that the legislation banning tobacco advertising was under appeal, the tobacco companies infuriated the health lobby by placing discount stickers over the health warnings on cigarette packages and using promotional messages inside packages to attract customer responses through 1-800 numbers.

Since the late 1970s there has been a growing conflict between anti-tobacco advocates and the tobacco industry, with the federal government (and provincial and local governments) being buffeted by both parties as it attempted to find legislative solutions. This article examines the history of the regulation of the marketing of tobacco products and the control of smoking with a view to recommending an alternative organizational arrangement for the demarketing of tobacco products and smoking in Canada.

The Historical Context

Canadian cigarette consumption.

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