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Imperial plans constitution challenge for tobacco packaging

Published by Steve Coleman on April 25, 2012

Imperial Tobacco Canada plans to challenge the constitutionality of a federal government decision to have graphic cigarette warning labels cover 75 per cent of the packaging.

While the tobacco company says it recognizes the health risks of smoking and agrees that smokers should be warned about the potential for problems, it says current warnings covering half of the pack are more than enough.

"In choosing to further regulate the legal and already heavily regulated industry, it is clear that the federal government is avoiding the country's number one tobacco problem, the illegal tobacco market," said John Clayton, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Imperial Tobacco Canada in a news release. "A market that evades all taxes and current regulations and whose products carry no health warnings."

Imperial plans to contend that increasing the graphic health warnings infringes on its ability to communicate and is an illegal violation of the Company's rights under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"Does anyone seriously believe that Canadians don't already know the risk of smoking?" Clayton said. "Increasing the size of the warning from 50 to 75 per cent will not lead to any measurable change to public awareness. We have been forced to take this position for us and for other industries that may be the target of over regulation."

The federal government approved the increase in the size of graphic health warnings in September 2011. All tobacco packaging in Canada must meet the new regulations by June 19, 2012.

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