Canada is about to become the first country in the world to mandate that every cigarette include a warning label
The measure builds on Canada’s rule that graphic photo warnings have to be on the packaging of tobacco products, which started a trend around the world when it was put into place 20 years ago.
“We need to address the fear that these messages have lost their freshness, and to some extent, we worry that they have lost their impact as well,” Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said during a news conference on Friday.
“Including health warnings on individual tobacco products will help ensure that these important messages reach everyone, including youngsters who frequently acquire cigarettes one at a time in social circumstances, bypassing package information.”
A public comment session for the proposed change will begin on Saturday, and the government expects the modifications to take effect in the second half of 2023.
While the exact messaging on cigarettes may change, according to Bennett, the present plan is to “poison with every puff.”
Bennett also talked about new warnings on cigarette packages that have a longer list of the bad effects of smoking, like stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, and peripheral vascular disease.
The photo warnings have been necessary in Canada since the millennium, but the images haven’t been changed in a decade.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s senior policy analyst, Rob Cunningham, said he hopes the warnings put directly on cigarettes, like the packaging warnings, become popular abroad.
“This will create an international precedent,” Cunningham said, noting that no other country has enacted similar legislation. He’s optimistic that the warning will have an impact.
“It’s a warning you can’t ignore,” Cunningham explained. “With every inhale, it will reach every smoker.”
The action was praised by Geoffrey Fong, a professor at the University of Waterloo and the chief investigator for the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project.
“This could be a big change that will make health warnings more effective,” Fong said.
The number of people who smoke has been continuously decreasing over time. Statistics Canada’s most recent data, released this month, revealed that 10% of Canadians smoke on a regular basis. By 2035, the government hopes to have lowered that rate in half.
According to StatCan, over 11% of Canadians aged 20 and up are current smokers, compared to only 4% of those aged 15 to 19.