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Canadian Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Strong Tobacco Control Laws

Armen Hareyan's picture

Strong Tobacco Control Laws

Supreme Court of Canada delivered an important victory for public health that has global implications in upholding the country's strong tobacco control laws.

It 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.

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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:

-- Ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (nations with constitutional constraints must take action to the extent allowed by their constitutions).