Jun. 28 2007
Washington, DC — The Supreme Court of Canada today delivered an important victory for public health that has global implications in upholding the country's strong tobacco control laws, which include strong restrictions on tobacco advertising and sponsorships and large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs. Canada has been a world leader in adopting strong measures to reduce tobacco use, especially in the area of marketing restrictions and health warnings, and also has strong constitutional protections for freedom of expression.
Today's unanimous ruling shows that nations can take strong, effective actions to reduce tobacco use and save lives that are consistent with free speech protections. This decision reaffirms the right of governments to take effective action to reduce tobacco use, which kills more than five million worldwide each year, and to place limits on the ability of tobacco companies to mislead consumers or to market their deadly and addictive products in ways that make them appealing and attractive to youth.
The Canadian law upheld by today's ruling requires large, pictorial health warnings that cover 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs; bans "false, misleading or deceptive" marketing of tobacco products; bans tobacco sponsorships; and places restrictions on tobacco advertising, including limiting advertising to adult publications and establishments and prohibiting "lifestyle advertising."
This ruling is timely as the world's nations prepare to meet June 30-July 6 in Bangkok, Thailand, for a conference on implementing the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This ruling should spur nations to quickly implement the strong, science-based measures called for by the treaty. The treaty, which has been ratified by 148 countries, commits nations to:
Tobacco use killed one hundred million people in the 20th Century and if current trends continue, will kill one billion people in the 21st Century. Unless urgent action is taken, tobacco will kill 10 million people a year by 2020, 70 percent of them in developing countries. The good news is that nations can prevent much of this disease and death by aggressively implementing the scientifically proven measures enshrined in the tobacco treaty. If adult cigarette consumption is reduced by 50 percent worldwide, nations can avert more than 300 million needless deaths from tobacco within the next 50 years. Today's ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court should motivate nations around the world to take aggressive action now.