Key Issues

in Youth & Tobacco

Report Recommends Health Canada Target “Lies of the Tobacco Industry” in Mass Media Campaign

A 78-page report commissioned by Health Canada recommends that the government target the “lies of the tobacco industry” in its $40 million mass media campaign to address the tobacco epidemic. The report, Tobacco Industry Denormalization Campaigns: A Review and Evaluation, was prepared by Professor Anne Lavack for Health Canada in 2001. It was kept under wraps for a year before being obtained under the Access to Information Act by the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association.

Tobacco industry denormalization is a strategy that focuses o­n the behaviour of the tobacco industry in order to cut tobacco-caused disease and death. The strategy is intended to show why the tobacco industry falls outside of the norms of legitimate business. “Society cannot ignore the role of the cigarette industry in the tobacco epidemic any more than it can ignore the role of the mosquito in an epidemic of malaria,” said Garfield Mahood, Executive Director of the Association.

Professor Lavack, a professor of marketing and long-time consultant to Health Canada writes, “the objective of these tobacco industry denormalization campaigns is to point out negative traits of the tobacco industry, including the opportunistic, manipulative, mendacious, and unethical activities in which the tobacco industry engages.” This strategic use of mass media has the potential to create a social environment where Canadians will support the strong measures needed to eradicate the tobacco epidemic.

The report reviews the landmark mass media campaigns undertaken in California, Massachusetts and Florida, and by the American Legacy Foundation. Tobacco industry denormalization is a core component in all of these campaigns. Professor Lavack then recommends that, based o­n her analysis, Health Canada “should focus its efforts o­n three primary concepts … lies of the tobacco industry, nicotine is addictive, second-hand smoke is harmful.”

A number of bodies have now recommended to Health Canada that it engage the denormalization strategy. In 1999, a health body made up of Health Canada, the provinces and territories, and national health organizations advanced this recommendation (see New Directions for Tobacco Control in Canada: A National Strategy). Then, in 2001, the health minister’s Ministerial Advisory Council o­n Tobacco Control identified tobacco industry denormalization as a key strategy.

“The health minister has a clear choice,” said Mahood. Allow the government-wide protection of the tobacco industry to continue or treat the tobacco epidemic like other epidemics and tell the truth about its industrial source.”

– 30 –

For more information, contact:

Garfield Mahood, Executive Director (416) 928-2900 Cell: (416) 451-4285

See also: Canada’s mass media campaign: problems and solutions in the Lavack report.

Start typing and press Enter to search