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Despite intense effort by tobacco control groups during the past decade, legislation to control tobacco promotions in Canada has been limited in its effectiveness. The Tobacco Products Control Act (TPCA) was legislated in 1988 and although it banned tobacco product advertising, sponsorship remained permissible with limitations. The full name of the manufacturer was required on promotional material as opposed to a tobacco brand name. In response, all three Canadian tobacco companies hastily registered their various brands as separate corporate entities as the TPCA took effect. Imperial Tobacco Ltd, RJR-Macdonald Inc., and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. formed “shell” companies for sponsorship purposes that matched each of their various cigarette brands. For example, Imperial Tobacco Ltd formed new corporate entities such as Player’s Ltd, du Maurier Ltd, and Matinée Ltd so that it could advertise events sponsored in these brand name corporations rather than under the corporate identity of Imperial Tobacco.
Although advertisements that promoted events sponsored by tobacco companies were not permitted to display or mention cigarettes or tobacco, the graphic design, typography, logos, and colouring of such advertisements were often virtually identical to the brand name packages. Before the implementation of the TPCA, advertisements which made direct reference to tobacco products required health warnings. However, health warnings were not necessary for advertisements (point-of-sale displays, transit advertisements, billboards, magazine and newspaper advertisements, and radio and television spots) which promoted events sponsored by the tobacco “shell” companies.1 The logos of the newly formed corporate entities were also placed on non-tobacco items such as teeshirts, hats, and towels. Thus, the colours, designs, trademarks, and logos used on particular tobacco brand packages became the key mechanism of promotion under the provisions of …