Pubdate: Tuesday, 19 January 1999
Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Section: Page A6
Copyright: 1999, The Toronto Star
Author: Tim Harper, Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau


Packs' warnings would be bigger, more detailed

OTTAWA - Health Minister Allan Rock launched a number of offensives
against Canada's tobacco industry yesterday, signalling a more
aggressive campaign to keep adolescents from starting the deadly habit
of smoking.

While Rock won support from the health community and even the
opposition Reform party, the nation's cigarette makers shrugged,
saying nothing was unveiled that would change the smoking rate in this

Rock said Ottawa will make smoking warnings on cigarette packages
larger, up to 60 per cent of the front panel. Other anti-smoking
messages will be splashed on the sides, tops and inside sleeves of the

They will include detailed information about the ingredients of
cigarettes, facts about what happens if you smoke and reminders that
underage smoking is illegal. It will even include a 1-800 smoking
cessation hotline.

Among the new warning messages under consideration: ``Smoking can
cause a slow and painful death'' and ``45,000 Canadians will die from
smoking this year.''

The rate of Canadians who smoke has been largely static over the past
five years, but the rate of youth smoking has risen.

In a speech to the Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada marking national
Non-Smoking Week, Rock also proposed: A crackdown on in-store
promotions that target youth. A national health warning on the use of
``light, extra light and mild'' cigarettes and possibly a restriction
of the use of these terms by cigarette makers. Regulations to compel
cigarette makers to provide detailed information on ingredients in
their products, as well as their product research, and manufacturing,
distribution and promotional activities. A series of tough new
``attack'' ads that go after cigarette makers in a bid to force
adolescents to rebel against their marketing strategies. A caucus
committee that will report to Rock with an eye to reconstituting a
bill that would establish an anti-smoking fund from a tobacco surtax.
It was struck down on a technicality last month.

An annual January ``report card'' by the federal health minister of
the day on the battle against smoking.

All of Rock's initiatives are first subject to a consultation process
before he takes them to federal cabinet. He said he wants them
implemented by the end of the year.

A tax increase of about 16 cents a pack also looms in five provinces,
including Ontario.

Gar Mahood of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association said Rock had
``turned a corner'' in fighting smoking.

Rob Parker, spokesperson for Canada's three large tobacco companies,
said the measures announced by Rock are part of ``the annual
hysterical rehash of tobacco-control measures.

``There is not one chance in 1,000 that this will change the smoking
rate in this country,'' said Parker, president of the Canadian Tobacco
Manufacturers' Council.

The industry also signalled it could fight the packaging change,
claiming companies that trail in sales.

Statistics show warning labels to do not deter smokers, Parker said.

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