CRACKDOWN ON SMOKING
When Dr. Luther Leonidas Terry of Red Level, Ala., died on March 29, 1985, at 73, millions of people regarded him as a full-blown American hero. Others, notably those working in the tobacco industry, viewed him somewhat differently. As surgeon general of the U.S. public health service, Terry was responsible for a bombshell government book that declared flatly that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer and increased the risk of heart disease. Published in 1964, the 387-page book was titled Report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. And the scientific evidence it contained confirmed the worst suspicions of researchers around the world and guaranteed Luther Terry a place in medical history. The report—and later studies that reflected its findings—also transformed smoking from a personal habit into a public issue of the 1980s across North America and Europe.
Disapproval: It was against that backdrop that on April 30 federal Health Minister Jake Epp took action against the tobacco companies. The minister introduced legislation that, by Jan. 1, 1989, would banish all tobacco advertising from billboards, radio and television, magazines, newspapers, store signs, sports and cultural events—even from cigarette lighters, ashtrays, T-shirts and souvenir umbrellas. Bill C-51 angered members of the $6.4-billion-a-year Canadian tobacco industry, and spokesmen claimed that Epp did not even respond to proposals for tighter self-regulation that they put forward last November. Said Jean-Louis Mercier, the chairman of Montreal-based Imperial Tobacco Ltd. and president of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council: “The minister is a nonsmoker and a nondrinker who appears intent on dictating what lifestyles Canadians should choose.”
In Canada, as elsewhere, antismok-
ing campaigns, tough municipal bylaws and mounting disapproval have persuaded hundreds of thousands of smokers to renounce cigarettes. The holdouts have been squeezed into everdiminishing smokers’ ghettos at work, on airplanes and in restaurants. Clearly, tobacco use is on the decline. But some critics say that a marked change in social habits is not occurring quickly enough for the federal government, which is striving to attain the ideal of a smoke-free society by the year 2000.
Reversal: But opponents of Bill C-51 say that the proposed legislation jeopardizes 2,500 jobs in advertising and others in the depressed tobacco industry; imperils sports and cultural ventures ranging from the Players’ Series
Challenge auto races at Ontario’s Mosport Park, northeast of Toronto, to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet; infringes upon constitutional guarantees of free speech; and fails to recognize that U.S. publications would continue to flood the country with tobacco advertising. Despite those concerns, antismoking advocates like Toronto New Democrat MP Lynn McDonald, said that the legislation did not go far enough.
Epp himself appeared to have reversed his position on the issue. On May 26, 1986, replying in the Commons to McDonald, who demanded to know why he did not ban tobacco advertising, Epp said that if the member for BroadviewGreenwood had “looked at the effect that the banning of advertising has on reducing the number of smokers, then she will know it is painfully few.” But in an inteview with Maclean's last week, the minister said: “I absolutely reject the argument that advertising does not encourage people to smoke. C-51 is a reflection of where society is at.”
Habit: While society is still not united in its stand against smoking, there are clear indications that the habit is falling out of fashion. Between 1966 and 1981, the proportion of males aged 15 and over who smoked dropped to 37 per cent from 54 per cent. Female smokers declined to 29 from 32 per cent. But because the z overall population rose, I the actual number of * smokers increased to 6.6 S million in 1981 from slightly more than six
million in 1965. And cigarette sales, which increased 44 per cent between 1968 and 1981, have dropped by 17 per cent since then. Annual per capita consumption in Canada, perhaps the most significant statistic of all, fell to 3,348
cigarettes in 1985 from 4,076 in 1965.
Aggressive: But the reaction to Epp’s war on smoking swiftly focused on even more basic issues. Profound disagreements arose over the effect that advertising has on promoting the cigarette habit, the rights of the tobacco manufacturers and what promised to be the most aggressive government intrusion into social conduct since governments attempted to stop consumption of alcohol during the Prohibition-era of the 1920s.
For his part, Epp said that he believed that restricting tobacco advertising would reduce smoking “and stop people from taking it up.” And Neil Wickham, a consumer products analyst with the Toronto stockbroking firm of Walwyn Stodgell Cochran and Murray, added, “Believe it or not, those cigarette ads work and, without them, the decline in sales will accelerate.”
By contrast, the New York-based In-
ternational Advertising Association last year published the results of a survey that found no relationship between advertising bans and smoking levels. That study, edited by U.S. consultant Jean Boddewyn, found that in eight countries of Eastern Europe where tobacco advertising had been prohibited for at least 14 years, cigarette consumption had increased by 20 per cent in Hungary and 66 per cent in Yugoslavia. And the survey noted that in Italy, where tobacco advertising was outlawed in 1962, cigarette consumption had doubled in the past 20 years.
Deplorable: As a result, Boddewyn, a professor of international business at City University of New York, has become a dedicated opponent of bans. He declared: “Tobacco advertising bans are deplorable. Not only do they appear to be unrelated to overall tobacco consumption, but they also tend to prevent or hamper the spreading of information about new features such as filtered and low-tar cigarettes.” Added Stanley Houston, chairman of The Houston Group, a Toronto-based public relations firm whose clients include Imperial Tobacco Ltd.: “Bill C-51 has been represented as a smoking and health bill, when in fact the impact of it is going to be on the business community, in areas that have nothing to do with the manufacturing of cigarettes.” Arguments on the other side of the issue are also forceful. Said Neil Colli-
shaw, chief of the health department’s tobacco products unit who helped develop Bill C-51: “Tobacco advertising is clearly intended to increase sales. It certainly reinforces the existing climate of social acceptability surrounding smoking. So advertising is antithetical to what the government is trying to do: discourage tobacco consumption.” According to Collishaw, federal officials even considered banning smoking outright, but quickly decided that they would be unable to enforce such a law on almost seven million Canadian smokers.
Smoke-free: After the bill’s introduction, the NDP’S McDonald, a 47year-old sociologist and one of the nation’s most implacable foes of tobacco, continued her campaign for tougher legislation. Similar ly, Garfield Mahood, the 46year-old executive director of the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association, said that neutralizing the tobacco industry’s powerful influence had become one of the 6,000-member lobby group’s chief goals during 12 years of fighting to achieve a smoke-free society.
Epp’s proposed law would prohibit tobacco manufacturers from displaying brand names at companysponsored sports and cultural events—but McDonald noted that the firms would still be permitted to have their corporate names on view. That apparent concession did not reassure sports and cultural organizers who face the loss of an estimated $10 million worth of yearly support from the tobacco industry. And Harvey Hudes, the president of auto and motorcycle racing’s Mosport Park near Toronto—where Rothman’s and Players are major sponsors—said that amateur and professional sports would be hurt by the ban. Declared Hudes: “We see all the American auto racing programs sponsored by Marlborough, Winston and Camel come over the tube. We wouldn’t be taking tobacco away from the viewer. It would be the Canadian racer and sports promoter who would suffer.”
In the same way, Thomas Wood of Ottawa, president of the Royal Canadian Golf Association, estimated that sponsorship by Imperial’s DuMaurier brand cigarettes contributed $1.5 million a year to golf in Canada by putting up tournament prize money and subsidizing social events during golf tours. Wood noted that the company would likely drop that financial support if it
could not advertise its brand names at those events.
The prospect of a tobacco manufacturers’ pullout also worries representatives of 35 arts and entertainment groups that received a total of $400,000 from DuMaurier last year. Said Michele Charlebois, director of develop-
ment for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra: “We are planning to write the government asking where it intends we get the money. Ticket prices don’t come close to covering our costs.” And Art Pearson, the president of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, said that last year’s tobacco sponsorship helped to fund the company’s celebrated national tours. Promoters of horse racing, tennis, sport fishing, theatre and opera are now wondering how they will replace the tobacco companies’ contribution to their budgets.
Hard line: Still, Richard Lauzon, of the Ottawa-based Canadian Council on Smoking and Health, claims that auto racing, ballet and golf organizers had become victims of a different kind of tobacco dependency. Said Lauzon: “They know it’s wrong. They know people should not smoke, but they still take the money from cigarettes.”
Hard-line attitudes toward smoking had become well established across the country long before Epp introduced Bill C-51, a development that prompted fed-
eral Treasury Board President Robert de Cotret to announce that he was ending a 27-year smoking habit to demonstrate his support for the policy. De Cotret is still off cigarettes, but for those who are still using tobacco, one crackdown against smokers has followed another. The federal government announced last April that it could begin phasing in workplace smoking restrictions by October—following the lead established by hundreds of communities and firms across the country. In West Vancouver this week, school board members will discuss a proposal that would forbid smoking on all school property. In Calgary, spokesmen for the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and the city school board both announced that total bans on indoor smoking would take effect next Jan. 1. On Sept. 1, the Manitoba government will ban smoking from most areas of the 380 buildings it leases or owns, and even cabinet ministers who want to smoke in their own offices will first have to get permission from a workplace health and safety committee.
Restrictions: The 300 offices of Manitoba Hydro became smoke-free in 1985, and at the Winnipeg plant of the airplane builder Boeing of Canada Ltd., nobody is allowed to light up indoors. And when Nygard International, Canada’s largest manufacturer of women’s sportswear, made arrangements for this week’s opening of its new corporate headquarters in downtown Toronto, company officials planned to tell guests that if they wanted to smoke they would have to go outdoors. Similarly, in Halifax, the 4,000 employees of the Maritime Telephone and Telegraph Co. Ltd. are not permitted to smoke in the office.
Antismoking restrictions have also proliferated in the United States. There, regulations that took effect earlier this year limit smoking in federal offices to specially designated areas. At the same time, 40 U.S. states now restrict smoking in public places, 33 prohibit it in trains, buses, streetcars or subways, and 17 have banned it in offices and other work places. The tiny township of Waterford, Minn., has
tried to prohibit smoking anywhere— even outdoors—but without much success. It does not have a police department to enforce the law, which contains no penalties for breaking it. By contrast, managers at the Chicago-based building products firm USG Acoustical Products Co. have told 1,300 plant employees to quit smoking or be fired—and they plan pulmonary function tests to ensure compliance. Company officials say that workers at the nine factories use minerals to manufacture insulation and acoustical tiles. And they cite recent studies indicating that inhaling minute quantities of those fibres could be harmful —particularly for smokers.
Stress: According to Dr. John Patterson, the co-ordinator of clinical services at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, such actions are placing smokers under greater stress. “The world is becoming militant, and there is anger, and they don’t understand it,” said Anderson.
“Looking back 20 years from now, this will probably be one of the biggest revolutions that we have ever seen.”
But stress is not the only consequence of the drive against smoking.
Civil liberties groups have begun questioning whether individual rights are being denied by some of the harsher measures. Effective last Jan. 1, the Blue Cross health insurance group in Alberta simply told its 254 employees to quit the habit or risk dismissal. Said lawyer Christopher Rigg of the Calgary Civil Liberties Association: “I’d be most concerned about whether an employee of Blue Cross has had access to due process.”
Those affected most by the impending ban on cigarette advertising are considering legal action to prevent what they say would be an abuse of their rights. To that end, tobacco industry lawyers say that the companies may challenge the constitutionality of a law that would prohibit ads for a legally available product. And newspaper and
magazine publishers also reacted strongly to the potential loss of revenues from tobacco advertising. Several newspapers, among them The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and the Brockville Recorder and Times, have already decided for their own reasons to refuse to accept cigarette ads. But the threat-
ened advertising generates $13 million yearly for other Canadian newspapers and magazines, including Maclean's. Declared John Foy, president of the 92member Canadian Daily Newspaper Publishers Association: “The thing that concerns the majority of our members is the principle of banning advertising of a product that can be legally manufactured.”
For his part, Ronald Osborne, president of Toronto-based publisher Maclean Hunter Ltd., says that tobacco advertising accounted for about $2 mil-
lion in 1986, but that was only slightly more than one-tenth of one per cent of corporate revenues totalling $1.15 billion. “Our concern here lies more in the principle and the precedent that is being set,” Osborne told the company’s annual meeting in Toronto in April. “What will be the next legally producible and marketable product to be subject to intervention? What industry will our government next deprive of the right to advertise?” Demean: Indeed, some Canadians who would not be financially affected by the bill have expressed concerns about its implications. John C. Luik, for one, a philosophy professor at the University of Manitoba’s St. Paul’s College in Winnipeg, said that a ban “would demean all of us through proclaiming that we are not to be trusted with some forms of information and attempted persuasion, that we are insufficiently rational to really understand the consequences of our action.” And Richard Gilbert, a consultant to Ontario’s Addiction Research Foundation, said that some antismoking advocates had called him a stooge of the tobacco industry when he recently wrote that an advertising ban would not lower cigarette consumption.
Gilbert questioned the effectiveness of a tobacco-advertising ban on cigarette consumption in a column he wrote for the ARF’s monthly newspaper last January. Said Gilbert: “In our society, being able to express yourself with reasonable freedom is more important than being protected from risk, except in cases of dire emergency, which the smoking issue is not. Allowing freedom of speech is always the best strategy.” Despite such arguments, Health Minister Epp is pressing ahead with proposed legislation that would clearly restrict that freedom when it is used to sell cigarettes.
RAE CORELLI with JULIA BENNETT in Toronto, PAUL GESSELL and MARCUS GEE in Ottawa and correspondents’ reports