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Controls On Tobacco Advertising And Corporate Sponsorship To Reduce Tobacco Use In Canada

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Currently in Canada, there are about 4. 6 million Canadians who smoke which makes up about 15% of the population, which is significantly lower than previous years, like 1965 when a record 50% of Canadians smoked. Due to the fact that trend of smoking has been steadily decreasing as the population was educated on the health risks associated with it, tobacco companies have increased their efforts to advertise in innovative ways to their target market and promote tobacco products, especially to young adults. Due to the fact that the tobacco industry has displayed a history of predatory behaviour by misrepresenting facts and targeting vulnerable populations, government controls on advertising and corporate sponsorship are present to help control the fate of this public issue. Along with strong controls on packaging and sponsorship efforts, the government of Canada hopes to be able to reduce the smoking population to less than 5% by the year 2035. The primary stakeholders influenced by the issue would include tobacco farmers, tobacco product manufacturers, smoke shops or shops that carry cigarettes, consumers of tobacco products. The secondary stakeholders influenced by this issue would include governmental regulation agencies (Public Health Agency Canada), competitors like vape and e-cigarette companies, news broadcasting and publishing sources such as CBC and CTV as well as second and third-hand smokers. While many of the tobacco manufacturing companies only worry about the economic aspect of their impact, they completely deny and falsify facts regarding the fatal impact of consuming tobacco products. Unwilling to accept social responsibility, and spending millions more in advertising every year to defy the work of anti-tobacco messaging, tobacco companies continue to impair and impose risks upon the health of many Canadian youth by targeting them strategically. Upon conducting research on the patterns and trends of smoking in Canada, the University of Waterloo found that although the trend of cigarettes is decreasing, youth (age 15 – 19) and young adults (age 20 – 24) are turning to e-cigarettes instead. As the market for vapes and e-cigarettes evolves, so does the advertising that is strategically marketed towards my peers and I. With the market share of tobacco users slowly decreasing, the increased efforts of tobacco companies to viciously prey on youth and low-income communities affects me personally, doing so by multiplying the chances of pre-mature death in the communities it targets.

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My experience with this issue is very personal. Having spent the first 13 years of my childhood being born and raised in Mumbai, India, I have seen peers my age and younger starting to smoke usually around the age of 15. The World Health Organization stated in India alone, tobacco consumption has impoverished around 15 million people between the year 2004 and 2005, doing so by targeting and advertising to lower-income communities at a much rate. One month before my family immigrated to Vancouver in 2008, my father was admitted to the hospital for several weeks for liver and lung-related issues which were a combination of stress and his former habit of smoking which lasted for 20 years before it indefinitely ceased after that point. My biases on the issue are reflective of my personal experience, and as much as I wouldn’t have a cigarette from my experienced familial trauma, I cannot fault those who have already fallen prey to the dangerous habit of smoking. My grandfather on my father’s side passed away in 2004 due to tongue cancer, known to run in my family, from eating ‘paan’ (betel leaves prepared and used as a stimulant, the areca nut is carcinogenic and puts you at risk of stomach, throat and esophagus cancer). In June 2019, approximately one month ago, I had mandible cancer surgery of my left jaw, to extract a tumour that covered two thirds of my bottom jaw and reconstruct it with a bone from my leg. Currently, on disability leave from work, I am recovering from that invasive procedure, with atleast another 2 months before I can get dentures, and atleast 6 months before I can consider implants. While none of these were part of my plan at age 24, I know I have the ability to deal with it. These experiences heavily reflect my personal bias on the public issue of tobacco advertising and promotion. Tobacco companies are using advertisements and corporate sponsorship to market to young people. In many countries, tobacco producers sponsor infrastructure projects and in return get to aggressively advertise their products. Tobacco companies should have heavy regulations placed on where and to whom they advertise. They should be allowed to advertise in adult-only environments and their advertising must state all the imperative health risks of tobacco usage. Tobacco companies should first take responsibility for the lives lost and currently at risk from addiction to tobacco products due to long-term use. For decades, tobacco companies misrepresented facts and the least they can do it take accountability for creating a legal, yet unethical product. In doing so, they can take it upon themselves to clearly advertise the facts of smoking so people are aware of the risk they are at from smoking. Further tobacco companies can fund research into tobacco trends and patterns including innovating products with lower tobacco content and even products that can help current smokers quit for good. Almost half the smokers in all of Canada (46. 2%) have tried to quit in the past year and failed, showing that there is really a market for products to aid long-term quitting smoking. As an executive of a tobacco company, I would try to let my company’s advertising and promotion be honest about the risks that come with tobacco usage including abiding by all laws that are required to be upheld in the production of these products. Continuing to hide facts would take any reason to even try to combat the public issue the industry is already facing. Taking responsibility might even be taken positively gaining the brand name good will within the community. Further, I think the tobacco company can try and create products that are truly safer, unlike in previous decades where safer products were disingenuously advertised.

The cost of undertaking such a project would be intense, and maybe multiple tobacco companies could together fund a research project into reduction of tobacco products, as well as innovating new tobacco quitting products. However, like in previous years companies are usually working against one another to put out competing lower-harm products. Controlling only my own company, I would ensure ours partnered with a business ethics corporation to find out ways in which our company could improve its corporate social responsibility. This would include partnering with them to see what measurable ethical standards the company currently meets and room for growth and can help us be as transparent with our customers as possible. Our tobacco company could also partner with anti-litter organizations to sponsor clean-up events and educate smokers about the negative impacts of littering. In Canada, we can partner up with The Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up and Zero Waste Canada to improve producer responsibility. Our company can take on the challenge of “extended corporate social responsibility” by trying to achieve collection and safe disposal of cigarette butts. Doing so would include sponsoring several clean-up projects, passing out pouches to hold onto cigarette butts instead of littering and recyling the collected cigarette butts (Smith, 2015). In Canada, the government’s goal is to reduce tobacco use to less than 5% by the year 2035 and doing by placing strict regulations on the packaging and advertising of tobacco products. The federal government’s plan includes “drab” brown packaging devoid of any colours that must state in large font the health warnings of tobacco use. Canada joins Australia and Britain in the list of countries with the strictest tobacco laws in the world. The reason for concern stems from the need to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases all of which tobacco users are at a much higher risk of getting. In Canada, the government prohibits the sale of tobacco products via the internet or through vending machines. With reduced exposure to tobacco, about half of all cancer related deaths can be prevented, a huge concern for the Canadian Cancer Society (Reid, 2019). Tobacco products can be used by the government to create revenue by higher taxes, to try and offset the irreversible damage to our natural resources. Governments must be vigilant in how they allow tobacco companies to market to consumers, and put in plays laws that discourage and denounce predatory tactics. By using these tactics, tobacco companies target already vulnerable populations of people that include lower income communities, people of colour, women and youth, at a much higher rate with billboards and posters. Not only to tobacco companies use marketing that distorts the facts and risks of tobacco use, they often also hold back from letting consumers know about the impending disabilities and even death that can follow (WHO, 2017). Governments can use tools like community programs and social media to put the correct facts into the hands of tobacco users. With the answer to almost any question at the click of a button, the internet can be a useful tool for the dissemination of information. Governments could use these tools educate tobacco users about impending health risks as well as other tobacco-induced concerns. These concerns include the effect of tobacco smoke on air quality level therefore the health and safety of communities and the education of lower income communities so as to recognize the predatory marketing tactics of the tobacco industry and protect the next generation.

The government of Canada should continue to partner with Canadian Cancer society to fund regional and national events, along with funding the research of the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance to further our knowledge about tobacco-related smoking facts and trends to combat the problem. Perhaps the government’s greatest role however is in ensuring that those tobacco companies comply with the strict regulation set out for tobacco advertising and promotion. The WHO believes the in order to reduce productivity-loss costs as well as direct-health costs, tobacco control should be of severe importance to the government as it would save millions of dollars on the country’s GDP bottom line. From the moment we wake up to check our social networks, to riding the subway to work and all the way until watching some TV before bed at night, we see hundreds of commercials persuading us to spend money on one product over another. The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) encourages all involved nations to have at a complete ban on social media being used to advertise tobacco products. The WHO’s motive in doing so is to help curb youth being initiated into smoking, as well as to encourage the quitting of smoking. With the emergence of new technologies, the ways in which tobacco is controlled has to be innovated. For example, a study conducted to test the influence of the internet on tobacco use found that tobacco users were more likely to spend time to pro-smoking chat rooms online, rather than the time they would spend on traditional tobacco advertisements. With bans and regulations on advertising, tobacco companies turn to innovative ways in which to promote their products. A study conducted in 2009 set out to analyze advertising for 5 national cigarette brands on YouTube. The study found approximately 70% of the advertising was pro-smoking with videos including product reviews, smoking fetish related videos, footage of events sponsored by the cigarette companies and images of young people smoking cigarettes. While these companies refuse in having a hand in advertising their products on YouTube, YouTube also seems to have no control on who can view these videos making them very easy to access for youth around the world. The study concludes suggesting the regulation bans on tobacco are not to silence the pro-smoking opinions on YouTube but in fact to control the tobacco company’s ability to manipulate and entice young viewers with their predatory tactics. Just as tobacco companies are using media to innovate new methods of advertising, new media can also be used to advertise the opinions of anti-smoking organizations to the general public. A great example is the public concern that arose from first-ever American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson using the tobacco industry to sponsor her concert in Indonesia in 2010. After much public scrutiny and outrage, Clarkson decided to drop the sponsor altogether. There has also been a rise in the number of downloads of apps that aid with quitting smoking with self-help materials and tobacco facts. This can indeed be used as a cost-effective method in which to disseminate current research about the facts and risks of smoking. With the constant technological advancement today, advocates for tobacco control must be proactive about targeting the new opportunities and challenges that arise within the tobacco industry. It is vital for the advocates of tobacco control to understand the artful way in which tobacco companies use new media to advance their endeavours.

01 February 2021

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