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We Can Do Better, Much Better
Ottawa June 20, 2005-Canadians are on their way to living longer, healthier lives thanks to recent major moves by numerous provinces to go smoke-free. But delegates at the 4th National Conference on Tobacco or Health learned today that the work is far from complete.
"As the tobacco industry tries to recoup the costs of what Rothmans predicts to be a 'natural decline of 5.7 per cent in per capita sales' and even larger if significant tax or other measures are implemented, Canadians must be strong and fight back," said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society. "We can do better, much better!"
For example, taxes on tobacco products are inconsistent across the country. By filling the gap and increasing taxes on roll-your-own tobacco to the same level as cartons, and raising taxes to $12 per carton, tobacco sales are sure to decrease.
Packaging is another element in the battle. Attractive, positive images on packaging encourage people to smoke. With the promise of sophistication, social acceptability, status, masculinity, and conversely, femininity of brands, cigarettes and tobacco products are "normalized."
By removing appealing brand images from packaging, and standardizing packages with an unattractive colour, the fight against the tobacco industry will be advanced even further. Package warnings should be increased from 50 per cent to 80 per cent, and should contain new, enhanced, and more effective messaging.
Advertising and point-of-purchase signs are another crucial step. Many provinces are moving towards a ban on power walls: the overwhelming displays found in convenience stores and gas bars. Tobacco companies are still allowed to advertise in certain publications, through direct mail and in some bars. This must also stop.
As Canada expects new nutrition labelling guidelines to come into effect December 2005, an expansion on the contents of cigarette labelling should follow suit. Lars Ramström, director of the Institute for Tobacco Studies in Stockholm suggests making cigarette labelling more comprehensive, breaking down the contents of cigarettes, so consumers can make informed decision on the level of harm produced by their cigarette of choice, including how much tar
and nicotine smokers are inhaling, levels of carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, and benzene.
Other measures include: effective enforcement of policy, a single regulatory framework for nicotine-containing products, an adult accompaniment rating in those movies that continue to show smoking, CPP divestment of tobacco stocks, disclosure of industry marketing research, and addictive disclosure.
And there is a new serious problem. Discount cigarettes, legally priced at $10 to $12 per carton less than more recognized brands, now comprise of almost 40 per cent of the market.
"We have enormous work to do," said Cunningham, "but the potential to reduce disease and death is huge by protecting the continuation of our existing interventions and by implementing an extremely long to-do list. The future is in our hands."
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