Tobacco advertising heats up in Canada

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The battle to win public support for limited tobacco advertising heated up on Dec. 20 when the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers' Council took out full-page ads in Canada's major dailies promoting its new "voluntary code."

The code is the industry's counter to government plans announced Dec. 11 to seek an all-out ban on smoking advertising. Under its voluntary rules, complying tobacco companies won't advertise on radio and TV. As well, print ads will be product-based, showing neither people nor lifestyle themes. Health warnings attributed to the government will also be included.

The ads will feature a 1-800 "comments and suggestions" number. Feedback from the calls will be used to help the industry position its PR campaign against Health Minister Diane Marleau's proposed ban, said John McDonald, director of public affairs for Rothmans, Benson & Hedges.

"We're looking for comments on any aspect of the code," he said. "We're sending copies of the code to anyone who's interested in receiving it and we are looking for input."

McDonald is coy about when his company actually intends to resume advertising, an option that became legally possible in September, when the Supreme Court struck down a previous ban as a violation of free speech.

"Certainly in the first quarter you'll see some advertising," he said, refusing to be specific.

At least one newspaper chain--Southam Inc., publisher of the Ottawa Citizen--has said it would be willing to consider carrying tobacco ads.

The only cigarette ads to appear since the Supreme Court ruling were placed in October by Buz Cigarettes of Seattle. Buz placed ads for five weeks in a Vancouver weekly alternative newspaper called Terminal City.

Copyright 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

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