The federal police in Canada, the RCMP, have and continue to spend considerable resources fighting the illegal trade of untaxed cigarettes. In their recent marketing initiative, the RCMP has created posters for stores, billboards, etc., that warn the Canadian public of the societal consequences of purchasing contraband tobacco.

The Ontario government has regulations called the Smoke Free Act, that prevent any communications of tobacco in to be put in stores that show tobacco product and or the words “tobacco” and “cigarettes”. The RCMP poster, with the best intentions, if displayed in a convenience store, is in violation of the Ontario Smoke Free Act, which subjects the retailers to large fines and penalties. The RCMP poster shows tobacco products (a violation) and also displays the word “Tobacco”. another violation. Marketing knowledge would define the best place to put these posters would be at the sale of legal tobacco. Convenience stores represent over 80% of where tobacco is sold. Earlier this year, the Ontario Convenience Store Association ran an advertising campaign communicating the societal and health impact of buying contraband tobacco. Posters were displayed in over 50 independent stores in London, Ontario. The second day after the posters went up, the London area retailers started receiving warnings that the posters violated the Ontario Smoke Free Act and were asked to immediately remove them or face stiff penalties. These independent stores had no choice but to remove the posters. These posters were designed to bring community awareness and the Health Board perceived these posters as being a communication to influence smoking. What are your thoughts on these developments?