Dec. 13 2002
Washington, D.C. — Today's ruling by the Quebec Superior Court upholding the Canadian government's restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotions and Canada's large, pictorial warnings on cigarette packs is an important victory for the public health and provides yet another example that the U.S. government is falling behind the rest of the world in protecting its citizens from the health hazards of tobacco use. This ruling follows a ruling earlier this week by the European Union Court of Justice upholding the right of EU countries to ban deceptive cigarette descriptors such as "light" and "mild." The Canadian and EU cases show that while other countries are leaders in tobacco policy, the United States is a slacker.
The U.S. government should extend similar protections to Americans and support efforts to negotiate a strong international tobacco treaty that can help all nations to implement such measures and reduce the terrible and growing toll of tobacco use around the world. Congress should enact legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) effective authority to regulate tobacco products. The FDA should have the authority to stop tobacco marketing and sales to our children and to subject tobacco products to the same consumer protections, such as ingredient disclosure, product regulations and truthful packaging and advertising, applied to other products. In addition, U.S. negotiators to the proposed international tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), should support strong, science-based solutions, including a ban on terms such as "light" and "mild" and a ban on the advertising of tobacco in nations whose constitutions allow one.
The Quebec Superior Court ruled today that the tobacco companies' rights to advertise their products could "not be given the same legitimacy as the federal government's duty to protect public health." The Court's ruling dismissed the industry's constitutional challenge to a law that will take effect in October that bans promotional activities, including sponsorship of sporting events and restricts certain forms of tobacco marketing and advertising. The ruling also upheld Canada's pioneering law obligating tobacco companies to put large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.
The Canadian government is a world leader in protecting its citizens from tobacco. The U.S. should follow Canada and the EU's lead and support strong measures that put protecting public health ahead of the special interests of the tobacco industry.