Canada takes a leading role in fighting tobacco use on Sunday when it imposes a tough new law banning tobacco advertising, but health groups here complain the regulations do not go far enough.

As of New Year's Day, Canada's tobacco industry can no longer advertise in newspapers and magazines, an extension of an existing ban against promoting tobacco products on radio and television.The law puts Canada a leap ahead of other major countries, including the United States, where health groups are still seeking an outright ban on magazine and newspaper advertising.

Billboard and in-store advertising will be phased out over three years - to the disappointment of anti-smoking forces. Tobacco companies will still be able to promote sporting and other events using only their corporate logos.

Health groups, who have been challenging a determined industry lobbying effort to derail the legislation that was passed earlier this year, say it is an important first step.

Health workers here have expressed outrage at "lifestyle" advertising they say sends a message to young people that they must smoke to be trendy.

Canada's four major tobacco companies, who spend C$100 million ($83 million) a year on advertising, maintain their efforts are directed at their rapidly shrinking base of customers and not at attracting new users.