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.”
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