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Secret lobbying campaign precedes cigarette label decision

Tobacco companies pushed the government to stop expanding warning labels


 

CBC News is reporting that tobacco executives and lobbyists, many of whom have close ties to the Conservative party, spoke with government ministries, policy advisors and the Prime Minister’s Office a total of 82 times in the lead up the sudden scrapping of Health Canada’s plan to expand warning labels on cigarette packages. The expanded program would have increased the size of warning labels containing graphic images and require a 1-800 quit line to adorn all tobacco products. The program even had a launch date, May 31, which is World No Tobacco Day. However, in September, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq abruptly canned the campaign, announcing the government would instead focus on countering the trade in contraband cigarettes. It is not known why the government made this decision, or the exact nature of communications between Conservative officials and lobbyists, although it’s believed most of the conversations revolved around stopping the illegal sale of cigarettes. “I think it would be a shock to Canadians if lobbying was actually behind the decision to delay these warnings,” said Dave Hammond, a University of Waterloo professor who consulted on the tobacco warning labels for Health Canada. “(Lobbyists) use contraband as a blunt weapon to try and beat down anything else that might be effective.”

CBC News


 
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Secret lobbying campaign precedes cigarette label decision

  1. I'm not positive on how effective these warning lables are but I do know for a fact that those 1-+800 lines are very popular.

    The real downer is that the government, from the sound of this, simply chose to do what the tobacco companies told them to do. Pathetic really.

    • They met for discussions a total of 82 times and you conclude that they "simply chose to do what the tobacco companies told them to do"? I'm not defending the decision, but I would hesitate to characterize it as simply following the big bad tobacco company.

      And while I'm here, perhaps someone can enlighten me as to the last time a lobbying campaign was not secret. Or, to put it another way, I am not currently aware of any lobbying campaigns that are going on. As far as I knew, all lobbying is secret. Am I just uninformed, or was there actually something secretive about this specific campaign.

      • Regrettably, your remarks sure sound like you're defending the decision. A program was launched then canned months later. Who among us would have access to the powers that be 82 times — well, maybe you and other conservative lovers, but not the rest of the nation — that's about 64% of us.

        Ever hear of the gun registry lobby — was that secret? How about anti-drug crusaders? Every time you see a TV commercial or billboard that's for or against something and paid for by that group, that's lobbying. How about unions lobbying for higher wages or to protect their jobs?

        • CPC voters are nobodies, too.

  2. "It is not known why the government made this decision…"

    Here's a hint: (legal) tobacco sales = beaucoup tax revenue. Labels that scare away smokers lowers revenue; contraband cigs cut into the tax base – ergo, kill the labels and chase the bootleggers. Grab the taxes today and let some other government worry about the health costs tomorrow…

    • Of course you are aware that there quite a large can of worms being opened here. I don't know the exact numbers, but there are many other (more) destructive products out there that do not have near the restrictions placed on them that tobacco does already. Lottery tickets, for one. Of course, at some point we need to stop blaming the government for all the people who choose to smoke and incur health costs later on. Don't hear what I'm not saying. Restrictions and warnings and education are all good things. But why are smoking still the only acceptable vice to warn people about?

      • Oh here you are again, not defending the decision. Yeah, right — is that you, Leona?

      • Other than infected paper cuts, I'm not aware of any life-threatening damage directly caused by lottery tickets.

        Sarcasm aside, I am commenting specifically on this one issue, not any other. Other recent articles have talked about the high cost to government (read: taxpayers) of scrapping the new labels. I'm assuming they weighed that against the potential revenue gain of the new plan, along with the "get tough on criminals" optics of chasing bootleggers that they think will getthem votes, and decided the ends justified the means.

        Do what you want with the rest of the can; this one worm's fat & juicy enough for me (for now).

        • I'm not aware of any life-threatening damage directly caused by lottery tickets.

          Then you are fortunate that pathological gambling has not destroyed anyone close to you.

          • First, as noted, I was being sarcastic. Second: Note words "life-threatening" and "directly". Gambling is a horrible addiction, and can lead to all kinds of social, financial and mental problems, but in and of itself does not cause physical, potentially life-ending illnesses such as cancer and emphysema.

            If you had wanted to pick something closely analagous to tobacco, as far as direct harm goes, alcohol would have been a better choice than lottery tickets.

          • Gambling is a horrible addiction, and can lead to all kinds of social, financial and mental problems, but in and of itself does not cause physical, potentially life-ending illnesses such as cancer and emphysema.

            What about "such as suicide"?

  3. What a phoney, hypocritical country we live in today. You woud swear these companies are public enemy #1 while drug dealers are almost left alone and imortalized in Holywood films. These companies pay billions in taxes while drug dealers cost the taxpayers billions in the farce they call law enforcement. Drug users are traitors financing the Muslim terror groups yet the left wing media is fiaxated on demonizing a legal product. The historians are going to have a field day with this one.

    • I'm prety sure whatever you're on ain't legal…

    • Speaking of lobbyists.

      • Are both of you suggesting that Jeet's point is invalid? Because if you are, I just wasn't quite able to discern it in your, well let's call it what it is, immature and unhelpful jabs designed, I presume, to make yourselves feel morally superior because you are somehow more enlightened than the person you are (trying to) make fun. Or did I miss something?

        • He's completely hijacking the topic.

  4. How is that a 'secret' lobbying campaign? CBC got all their information from a public registry of lobbyists.

    Know which commercial entity in Canada lobbies the government regularly for more money, but is exempt from having to report its meetings?

    The CBC.

    • Good call. There is a difference between 'secret' meetings and 'hidden' meetings. These meetings could have been reported on during the decision-making process, had the government deigned to tell anyone that they were going on. Therefore, they were merely hidden, not secret. Or perhaps overlooked would be a better word.

      And why wouldn't they proudly proclaim that they were meeting with industry stakeholders? And that they were going to do exactly what the stakeholders requested? (although I note that the legal age limit for smoking hasn't been lowered. What ineffective lobbyists Ezra et al. must be!) What possible bad optics could be invoked from meeting with tobacco lobbyists? It's not like the whole industry denied any link between heart disease or lung cancer and the use of their products for decades on end. Such unseemliness would be unthinkable to any ethical human.

    • Who wrote this miserable piece? Mr. Wherry, by any chance? Mr Andrew Coyne, are you still editor of this magazine? If so, stop the magazine becoming just another sophomoric gripe forum.

      • I am not the editor of Maclean's, and never have been.

        • I read on CBC.ca that you were the 'secret' editor of Maclean's.

        • I think you should be.On the at issue panel, my wife is in like with you.LOL

  5. And Mr Coyne, don't fall into the trap of thinking that I represent any magazine buying constituency. I am retired, frequently bored, and sometimes homesick for that state of mind that calls itself Canada. Thus my reading and sometimes responding to pieces in Macleans.

  6. I expected more from Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. While I'm no conservative I generally give them more credit than the Liberals when it comes to not cowtowing to lobbyists. This is just sad.

  7. This whole topic is confusing. Reported that $3 million plus already spent on next campaign yet Prof. Fong claims "no cost to tax payers". http://news.nationalpost.com/2010/09/29/cancellin
    Prof. Hammond admits that the effect of the labels has worn off but there are no statistics that new ones will reverse that.
    So who pays for the printing of the warning labels on packages? What was the money spent on?

    • To answer your question, once approved and legislated by government, it is the tobacco manufacturers that will bear the cost of printing – something they already do.

  8. I dont think the labels are effective at all.It starts at home.if the parents don't smoke, if there is no peer pressure, that does work.I have seen people go the other way, when they see these labels and warnings they turn rebel.I wish they would stop the FN from running their cigarettes across lakes etc, and pay no tax.People are buying them off the black market like there is no tomorrow.I dont agree with the lobbying, but I have to say.Labels, thumbs down

  9. Yeah, only JonnyBoy's allowed to be uninformed on these boards. You're sounding rather pathetic with your own personal pro-tobacco lobby.

  10. When the ministry of health said that they will focus on controlling the trade in "contraband cigarettes", what do they mean? I'm not trying to be cynical or sarcastic, this is an honest question. I've never heard that term before.

    • More resources for cops to investigate and bust smugglers.
      Mayeb even some new, tougher penalities for those convicted.

      Just a guess.

      • More resources to crack down on smuggling is a good idea, but seems to be outside the scope of Health, and inside the scope of Law Enforcement. Why did Leona make this announcement? I'd be befuzzled if I didn't already know the reason.

    • The ''contraband cigarettes'' is such a can of worm that I doubt very much that we will see results on this issue anytime soon.

      And its getting extremely serious too. We have good ''quit smoking'' strategy, with very potent laws about selling to kids just to find out that the cigarettes butts around schools are in majority from contraband sales.

      I was listening to an interview not long ago and the guest was someone involved in quit smoking programs at the federal level, ministry of health I guess. The journalist asked why the tobacco products were not simply banned from Canada. Her answer was that if they were banned, tobacco products would go underground and they (government) would lose the control on the products. Her point was that as long as the product was legal, they somehow had a better control over it. Not sure her point is valid.

    • The Indian Reservations are making their own cigarettes and selling them. However, due to their anonymity they cannot be charged under our "laws". I do not know all the details but that is the "contraband cigarettes" they are referring to.

  11. Harper is a dangerous incompetent , opportunistic , control freak and dictator who will stop at nothing to fill his war coffers for the next election.

    • Kudos for staying on topic.

  12. The post is accurate. CBC is exempt from the Lobbying Act. So are all other crown corps. Do your homework before you criticize others.

  13. I am glad I never started to smoke.

  14. Oh please! This is just another create work program to justify public servant jobs. (Public Servants? We have become the servants).
    The wastage on the perpetuating the french language, too many public "servants" , immigrants welfare for 7 years, and non-ending source of taxpayer money has eroded the honesty, integrity, ethics and of Canada.

    Real Canadians can no longer have pride in this Socialist society.

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