Canada Pushes For Larger and Graphic Anti-Smoking Labels

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In response to the growing disregard of the public of cigarette warning in tobacco packs, the Canadian government has pushed for a more stern campaign by launching the world’s largest and most graphic anti-smoking label last Tuesday.

These new labels are expected to constitute 75% of the rear and front covers each pack of cigarettes. By 2012, this order will be mandatory to all tobacco companies. Currently, smoking labels cover about 50% of the packages—but these have been continuously ignored by the general public.

There are 16 proposed labels which will be implemented in the coming months. These images contain pictures of a woman dying in a hospital bed due to lung cancer, a person with a hole in the throat after a surgery for laryngeal cancer due to smoking, as well as a close up shot of a malignant and diseased tongue.

“We want to make the images larger and more noticeable and more understandable … The images are pretty gross. They can be a little bit scary as well, but that is the reality of smoking,” according to federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. “Over time, people get used to seeing the old pictures so we want to grab people’s attention once again,” she said at an event to unveil the images.

Importers of tobacco as well as manufacturers are given the deadline until March 21, 2012 to make use of these new labels. Retailers should also carry packs with the larger warnings starting June 19. “It’s fantastic … the evidence is that the larger the size (of the label), the larger the impact,” Rob Cunningham, a policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said. Currently, Uruguay is the only nation which requires the tobacco manufacturers to cover 80% of their package with warning labels.

In Canada, the smoking rate in for the adults dropped to 17% last 2010 from a 24% rate back in 2000. This was one year prior to the requirement of the warning labels. The Canadian Public Health Association also supported the cause and claimed that smoking is “the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and premature death in Canada.”

It can be remembered that earlier last week, several tobacco companies have sued the Food and Drug Administration for requiring graphic health labels in cigarette packs starting September 2012. The images proposed in the US are also similar to the ones proposed in Canada.

“We … believe that the health risks have been known for decades and that the existing regulations, including the 50 percent health warning, provide sufficient information to consumers in order for them to make an informed decision,” says Erik Gagnon, a company spokesperson of Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. They also said that this step is a poor policy for political gains.




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