Tobacco firm takes Canadian provincial government to court

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Canada's No. 3 tobacco marketer, RJR-Macdonald, is taking the British Columbia government to court over provincial anti-smoking legislation that the company says could seriously jeopardize its brands.

RJR-Macdonald filed a constitutional challenge to regulations that force marketers to disclose the ingredients in their brands and the make-up of tobacco smoke.

Full-page ads handled in-house at RJR-Macdonald ran November 4 in daily newspapers in the province, pointing out that the marketer has complied with the new rules. Included was a toll-free phone number for callers to request a copy of RJR's analysis of tobacco smoke, which was filed as required in September.

"We have no problem with people being informed [about] what's in the products," says RJR spokeswoman Janet Hatfield in Toronto.

But, she adds: "Confidentiality is in question. [Government officials] want to disclose the recipe of our products. That could seriously endanger our competitiveness."

RJR has about 13% of the Canadian tobacco market. Export "A" is its No. 1 cigarette brand.

Provincial Health Minister Penny Priddy says the several new anti-smoking regulations introduced in June are meant to "hold the tobacco industry more accountable" for its products.

Canada's other major tobacco marketers - Imperial Tobacco along with Rothmans, Benson & Hedges - are expected to go to court this month to challenge other anti-smoking rules in the province.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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