Time to ban ads for pickups and gas? Why an Alberta doctor is part of that charge

Citing a federal law banning cigarette ads, a group of Canadian doctors is calling on Ottawa to outlaw commercials for fossil fuel products like pickup trucks and gasoline.

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), a group supported by more than 700,000 health professionals, announced the initiative on Wednesday in honour of Clean Air Day.

“We shouldn’t have any advertising that is either glossing over the climate impacts these companies are doing or minimizing the air pollution impacts,” said Board President Dr. Joe Vipond.

The Calgary-based medical doctor, perhaps best known as an outspoken critic of Alberta’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, also wants regulations to address misinformation and mandated warnings of environmental risks.

“We are seeing problems with air pollution not only from fossil fuel combustion but also getting it from these massive fire events which seem to be getting worse and worse,” he explained.

Vipond referred to the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire and floods in Calgary in 2013 as examples of extreme weather events made worse by climate change.

He and CAPE want to see legislation similar to the 1989 Tobacco Products Control Act, which prohibits all forms of tobacco advertising in Canada and mandates warning labels on packaging.

Dr. Joe Vipond in an interview with CTV News Edmonton.

“The Supreme Court was very clear against tobacco companies that this is a reasonable restriction of freedom of speech when the public’s health is put at risk,” Vipond argues.

But Vipond’s call is unlikely to get the support of Alberta’s governing UCP.

On Friday, the province’s Environment Minister called it an attack on Alberta workers.

“For anyone to suggest that the men and women inside the oil and gas industry should be hidden from the world, uh, it’s frankly ridiculous. They should apologize for it,” Jason Nixon told CTV News Calgary.

“We would see it as an attack on our constitutional rights, and we would respond vigorously to defend those rights.”

CAPE also cited reports claiming that air pollution from fossil fuels is responsible for 8.7 million deaths per year worldwide, and the group referred to a “heat dome” that killed 569 people in British Columbia last year.

Canada’s environment minister did not respond to a request for comment from CTV News Edmonton.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Chelan Skulski

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