Canada is about to become the first country in the world to require a warning to be printed on every cigarette. The move builds on Canada’s mandate to include graphic photo warnings on tobacco product packaging – a policy that started an international trend when it was introduced two decades ago.
“We have to respond to the fear that these messages have lost their novelty, and to some extent we are concerned that they have also lost their impact,” Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett said during a Friday press conference. “Adding health warnings to individual tobacco products will help ensure that these essential messages reach people, including young people who often access cigarettes one at a time in social situations, bypassing the information printed on a package.”
A consultation period for the proposed change is due to start on Saturday, and the government expects the changes to come into force in the second half of 2023. While the exact message printed on the cigarettes could change, Ms Bennett said the current proposal is next: “Poison in every puff.
She also revealed expanded warnings for cigarette packs that include a longer list of health effects of smoking, including stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes and peripheral vascular disease. Canada has required photo warnings since the turn of the millennium, but the images have not been updated for a decade.
Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said he hopes warnings printed directly on cigarettes will become popular internationally, as will warnings on packaging.
“It will set a global precedent,” Mr Cunningham said, adding that no other country had implemented such regulations. He hopes the warning will make a real difference. “This is a warning that you simply cannot ignore. It will reach every smoker, with every puff.
The smoking rate has steadily declined over the years. The latest data from Statistics Canada (StatCan), released last month, shows that 10% of Canadians reported smoking regularly. The government is looking to halve that rate by 2035. Statistics Canada noted that around 11% of Canadians aged 20 and older reported being current smokers, compared to just 4% of those aged 15-19. .
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