Canada is set to be the first country to require that every cigarette contain a warning about health.
It is a result of the introduction of graphic photo warnings on packaging for tobacco products – a policy which was adopted two decades ago and has become wildly popular worldwide.
The UK implemented the same in 2008
Carolyn Bennett, Canadian minister of mental and addictions, stated that new energy was required because the photos had “lost their novelty…and may have lost some of their impact as well”.
She stated that adding warnings about health to individual cigarettes would make sure messages get through, even to young people who often access cigarettes in social situations.
The government expects that the proposed changes will be in force by the end of the second half of 2023. A consultation period is scheduled to start.
Although the exact message printed on cigarettes may change, Ms Bennett stated that the current proposal was: “Poison every puff.”
She also shared expanded warnings about cigarette packages, which include a longer list indicating the health effects of smoking, such as stomach cancer, colorectal carcinoma, diabetes and peripheral vascular disease.
Canada has required photo warnings ever since the dawn of the millennium. However, the images have not been updated in a decade.
Rob Cunningham is a senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society. He said that he hopes the warnings printed directly onto cigarettes will become as popular internationally as the package warnings.
He said that this would be a precedent for the world and added that no other country had implemented similar regulations.
Geoffrey Fong (a professor at the University of Waterloo who is also the principal investigator in the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project) also applauded the move.
He said, “This is a potentially powerful intervention that will enhance the impact on health warnings.”
Canada has seen a steady decline in smoking rates. Statistics Canada released the latest data last month and it shows that 10% of Canadians smoke regularly.
The government aims to reduce that rate by half by 2035.