Monday, December 29, 2008

Health Canada and the Tobbaco Industry

When It Comes To Legislation Unquestionably, one of the highlights in Canadian tobacco control was the successful defence in 2002 of the Tobacco Act and its regulations. In 1997 the three major tobacco manufacturers in Canada - JTI-Macdonald Corp. (formerly RJR-Macdonald Inc.), Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. and Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. - launched a constitutional court challenge of those sections of the Act and its regulations which impose restrictions on advertising and sponsorship, and require tobacco manufacturers to print pictorial health warning messages on cigarette packages. Officials from Health Canada, together with lawyers representing the Attorney General of Canada, participated in the preparation for trial as well as the hearings (from January through September of 2002). There were roughly 1000 exhibits at trial and 81 days of transcribed testimony. Twenty-six sections of the Act were challenged; four different sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were invoked; there were additional arguments based on federal/provincial powers and other legal issues. In its December 2002 decision, the Quebec Superior Court fully upheld the constitutionality of the Tobacco Act and its regulations. Some excerpts from the ruling included,'The tobacco companies are in a particularly difficult position. They sell a harmful product and know it. They have the right to sell it because outright prohibition would be unrealistic. ... They offer no evidence to rebut the claimed ill effects of cigarettes because there is none. ... Their evidence respecting the effects of advertising was unconvincing. They are trying to save an industry in inevitable decline. They have every right to do so. Their rights, however, cannot be given the same legitimacy as the government's duty to protect public health.' (The three manufacturers are appealing this decision.)

No comments: