Tobacco tiff

Published: Sunday 31 December 1995

-- Ottawa's tobacco industry in Canada can once again woo the public by flaunting it's ware. For seven years, tobacco manufacturers were restricted from indulging in promotional campaigns, thanks to the 1988 Tobacco Products Control Act which put a blanket ban on advertising.

But the Supreme Court of Canada is convinced that the federal government has been extra harsh with tobacco merchants. Recently, in a landmark ruling, it accused the federal government of failing to ascertain that a near-total ban on advertising was the only means of achieving its legislative objective of phasing out cigarette consumption. -Far less intrusive" measures like advertisement bans aimed at children, or even labelling requirements, might have produced the same results, opined Madam Justice Beverley Maclachlin.

The Court responded to an appeal launched in 1989 by Imperial Tobacco Inc. It rejected The government's arguments that the ban was permissible under constitutional provisions allowing infringement of rights in cases where such violations are established as -reasonable and demon. strably justified in a free and democratic society".

Meanwhile, the anti-tobacco lobby is spewing fire. They have demanded that Ottawa immediately invoke a special "notwithstanding- clause of the constitution allowing the government to override the Charter rulings. Demands are also being made to brand tobacco as a hazardous product or drug.

Tobacco merchants, too, are cautious at the moment. Robert Parker, president of the Tobacco Manufacturer's Council, assured angry activists that the industry will not resume advertising until it has consulted the government on mutually acceptable restrictions.

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