Canada freezes big anti-tobacco push, critics fume
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has frozen long-held plans to slap graphic new warning labels on packs of cigarettes, prompting critics to attack what they see as the tobacco industry's excessive influence on the minority Conservative government.
The federal health ministry spent six years devising the new campaign and agreeing on the details with the country's 10 provinces, which administer the public healthcare system. Earlier this month, Ottawa told the provinces the plan was on hold.
"Health Canada continues to examine the renewal of health warning messages on tobacco packaging but is not ready to move forward at this time," a spokeswoman told Reuters on Tuesday.
She also referred to recent law and order measures designed to cut the production and sale of contraband tobacco -- a key demand of the industry.
Since 2001, all cigarette packs -- which cannot be displayed openly in stores -- have carried graphic warning labels covering half the surface of the package, aimed at telling people of the health risks of smoking and getting them to quit.
Anti-smoking campaigners say the labels are tired and need to be upgraded and increased in size.
The official opposition Liberal Party said statistics showed that since the Conservatives took office in 2006, the rate at which Canadians have quit smoking has declined.
"This government is listening to the business lobby, the tobacco lobby," said legislator Ujjal Dosanjh, who was federal minister of health when the consultations were launched. Continued...