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Health Warnings on Canadian Cigarette Packages

Author: Health Canada

Published: 2011-01-02 : (Rev. 2011-05-26)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Canadian Harper Government to strengthen and enlarge health warnings on cigarette packages.

Main Digest

Harper Government to strengthen and enlarge health warnings on cigarette packages.

The Harper Government announced today it intends to launch updated, larger health warning messages and a toll-free quit-line on cigarette and little cigar packages that will be the backbone of a social marketing campaign to encourage smokers to quit. The announcement was made by the Honorable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health and Pierre Poilievre, Member of Parliament for Nepean-Carleton.

"The combination of larger health warning messages and social marketing will help the new messages reach as many smokers as possible," said Minister Aglukkaq. "This comprehensive strategy will ensure Canada remains a world leader in tobacco control initiatives."

"Giving Canadians the straight-up goods on the dangers of tobacco use in a more prominent and visible way through larger, more effective tobacco warning labels is a significant step in our ongoing battle to reduce tobacco consumption and, ultimately, cardiovascular disease," said Irfhan Rawji, chair of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. "The Foundation commends the federal government for this important step in encouraging Canadians to be smoke-free and live healthier, longer lives."

At a news conference today, Minister Aglukkaq unveiled four of the initial new, stronger messages and committed to a rotation of messages so that they avoid losing effectiveness over time.

"We applaud the Health Minister's commitment to require tougher warning labels on tobacco products," said Heather Borquez, President and CEO of the Canadian Lung Association. "Strong, graphic health warnings on cigarette packages are a key part of the broad effort needed to keep young people from smoking and encourage existing smokers to quit." Key features of the new label requirements include:

New, larger graphic health warnings that will feature new diseases and, for the first time, testimonials from individuals affected by tobacco use. The warnings will cover 75% of the front and back of cigarette and little cigar packages, up from the current 50%.

A pan-Canadian quit-line and web URL. Provisional on provincial and territorial agreement, Health Canada intends to include on packages a pan-Canadian quit-line number and web URL that would seamlessly connect smokers to provincial and territorial phone cessation support services.

Improved health information messages and toxic emission statements. The addition of color and graphics to health information messages will make them more noticeable, while new toxic emission statements will be easier to understand.

In addition to the labelling changes, Health Canada is developing a social marketing campaign targeting smokers, including young adults. Multimedia, including social networks across the Web, will be used to reach teenagers and young adults.

The new health warning messages will build on the success of the Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed At Youth Act. The Act, which became law in October 2009, makes it harder for industry to entice young people to smoke. The messages will also complement new and existing cessation and prevention initiatives, resulting in a comprehensive and integrated approach to tobacco control.

Tobacco use costs the Canadian health care systems $4.4 billion a year in direct costs and continues to kill 37,000 Canadians every year.

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