Canada’s Three Top Companies
Seek Looser Restrictions

By Christopher Maughan

Canadian Press February 20, 2007


Canada’s three major tobacco companies are at the Supreme Court arguing for looser restrictions on advertising, saying the law is so vague it amounts to a total ban and violates the companies constitutional right to advertise.

Under federal Tobacco Act, cigarette manufactures can advertise in adult-only  public places, in certain magazines and through direct mail.

But few companies have actually bothered because of what they say is a vague section of the Tobacco Act aimed at forbidding advertising aimed at kids.

Simon Potter, a lawyer representing Imperial Tobacco, said the law as it’s written forbids any ad that could be construed as appealing to youth.

Their  problem he said, is that even if an ad is clearly targeting adults it’s possible for it to be seen as aimed at youth, and that’s enough to make it illegal.

“To imagine an ad that can’t be construed to be appealing to someone who’s 17 years old, in my estimation, is impossible,” Potter told the court. “The world construed is entirely subjective.”

Potter sid he’s looking for the court to provide, a clear framework within which companies may advertise. If you ban everything except what is explicitly permitted,”‘he said, “some care must be taken to actually be clear as to what’s permitted.”

He suggested cigarette, advertising be regulated more like beer spots, which are cleared by government and industry representatives before they’re released.

Cynthia Devine, a lawyer arguing on behalf  for the Attorney-General of Manitoba, argued “This court has upheld several prohibitions on expression couched in terms less precise,’she said, referring to limitations on telephone marketing and laws governing election campaigns.

Six provincial attorney-general representatives argued in support of the law as it stands.

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