Media backgrounder #1: Highlights from 50 years of war on tobacco

14 June 2013

Toronto -

1963     Federal Health Minister Judy LaMarsh declares that smoking is a contributory cause of lung cancer and may also be associated with chronic bronchitis and coronary heart disease.

1963     Canadian Medical Association President urges doctors to stop cigarette smoking, at least during professional duties.

1964     US Surgeon General’s Report concludes that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung and laryngeal cancer in men, a probable cause of lung cancer in women, and the most important cause of chronic bronchitis.

1969     CBC television stops accepting tobacco advertising.

1969     House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, Welfare and Social Affairs recommends that tobacco advertising be banned and that many other tobacco-control measures be adopted.

1972     Tobacco industry voluntary code amendments remove advertising from television and radio, though industry would later use sponsored events to get around this measure.  Also, a weak, voluntary warning begins to appear in small print on the side of the package.

1973     Canadian National Railway sets aside nonsmoking sections on some trains between Montreal and Toronto.

1976     City of Ottawa passes first municipal smoking bylaw in Canada restricting smoking in indoor public places, effective 1977.

1977     National Non-Smoking Week begins as an annual event in Canada, held in January.

1982     Smoking is banned on domestic airline flights of 2 hours or less.

1982     Tobacco taxes begin to rise above rate of inflation.

1986     US Surgeon General concludes that secondhand smoke causes disease, including lung cancer, in otherwise healthy nonsmokers.

1987     Federal and provincial governments announce Tobacco Diversification Plan to help farmers exit from tobacco growing.

1987     Federal regulation bans smoking on domestic flights of 2 hours or less.

1988     US Surgeon General concludes that the pharmacologic and behavioural processes that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine heroin and cocaine addiction.

1988     WHO organizes first World No Tobacco Day. This day has continued on May 31 every year.

1988     Federal Tobacco Products Control Act adopted to ban tobacco advertising.

1988     Calgary Winter Olympics become first smoke-free Olympics.

1988     Federal Non-smokers’ Health Act adopted to implement strong smoking restrictions in all federally-regulated workplaces.

1989     Pursuant to Non-smokers’ Health Regulations, smoking banned on all domestic airline flights in Canada.

1993     Federal Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act adopted to increase the minimum federal age of sales of tobacco to minors from age 16 to age 18.  Today, 6 provinces and one territory have a minimum age of 19.

1993     Lung cancer surpasses breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death among Canadian women.

1994     Federal government and Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI reduce tobacco taxes.

1994     McDonald’s announces that all of its company-owned restaurants in North America will be smoke free.

1994     Federal Tobacco Products Control Regulations amended to require world precedent setting black and white health warnings covering 35% of the package front and back.

1994     House of Commons Standing Committee on Health recommends plain packaging.

1994     Ontario becomes first province to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies.  All provinces except BC have now done so.

1994     Ontario and Nova Scotia become first provinces to ban vending machine cigarette sales.  Today, federal legislation prohibits vending machines except in bars, and six provinces/territories have full bans on vending machines.

1995     Supreme Court of Canada by narrow 5:4 majority strikes down advertising ban in Tobacco Products Control Act.

1996     Vancouver becomes first municipality to adopt a bylaw requiring restaurants to be 100% smoke-free.

1997     Federal Tobacco Act adopted, implementing strong restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion, to replace the Tobacco Products Control Act.

1998     British Columbia becomes first province to file medicare cost recovery lawsuit against the tobacco industry.  Nine provinces have now filed lawsuits, and the 10th province, Nova Scotia, has announced its intention to do the same.

2000     Federal Tobacco Products Information Regulations adopted to require world precedent setting package health warnings that include graphic pictures, and that cover 50% of the package front and back.

2000     Canadian Cancer Society establishes Smokers’ Helpline in Ontario, providing smokers a toll-free service for assistance on how to quit. The Society would later also provide a similar service in SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, NS, PEI.  Quitlines are now accessible from all provinces and territories.

2001     Saskatchewan becomes first province to adopt legislation to prohibit visible display of tobacco products in retail stores, effective in 2002. All provinces and territories would later do the same.

2001     Federal government announces record level of funding for tobacco control (subsequent to passage by Senate of Bill S-20, Tobacco Youth Protection Act, and similar bills).

2003     WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the international tobacco treaty, approved.

2003     Federal Tobacco Act ban on sponsorship of sport and arts events comes into effect.

2004     Manitoba, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories and Nunavut become first provinces/territories to adopt legislation making all restaurants and bars 100% smoke-free.  All provinces and territories have now done so.

2005     Supreme Court of Canada unanimously upholds Saskatchewan ban on retail displays.

2007     Supreme Court of Canada unanimously upholds federal advertising restrictions and sponsorship ban in Tobacco Act., and federal regulations for 50% picture warnings.

2008     Wolfville, NS becomes the first municipality to ban smoking in vehicles with kids. Today, 8 provinces have implemented such a measure with provincial legislation.

2008     Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. plead guilty to illegal tobacco contraband for actions in the early 1990s.  JTI-Macdonald would do the same in 2010.  Fines and civil payments total $1.7 billion.

2009     Parliament adopts Bill C-32 to ban flavoured cigarettes and little cigars (effective July 5, 2010), and to ban tobacco advertising in magazines, newspapers and other publications.

2012     Class actions seeking $27 billion in damages from tobacco industry begin trial in Quebec Superior Court. Trial is expected to continue into 2014.

2012     New federal regulations come into effect increasing the size of health warnings to 75% of the front and back of cigarette packages and including a toll-free quitline number and web address in the warnings.

For 75 years the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. Visit or call us at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).-

For more information, please contact:

Brooke Kelly

Communications Coordinator

Canadian Cancer Society

National office

Phone: 416-934-5321