New, Larger Cigarette Package Health Warnings Appearing on Store Shelves

27 February 2012

Toronto -

New, larger graphic picture warnings on cigarette packages showing the negative health effects of smoking are beginning to appear in retail stores across Canada. The new graphic warnings will now cover more of the package (75 per cent of the front and back), up from the current 50 per cent, putting Canada among countries with the largest health warnings in the world.

The new warnings include disturbing pictures of a mouth with cancer, a diseased heart, and a man after a stroke. The set of 16 new warnings also include powerful images of the late Barb Tarbox of Alberta before she died of lung cancer, as well as Manitoban Leroy Kehler who speaks through a hole in his throat following his treatment for cancer of the larynx.

Manufacturers have until March 21, 2012 to ensure that all the cigarettes they sell have the larger warnings, however some packages are already appearing in stores with the new labels. By June 19, all cigarette packages sold in retail stores must carry the new warnings.

“These new cigarette health warnings are a major advance that will reduce smoking and increase awareness of the terrible health effects,” says Dan Demers, Director, Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society. “The warnings are striking and will be hard to ignore. We welcome the arrival of the new warnings and applaud Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq for bringing this health initiative forward.”










This larger, graphic set of picture warnings is part of the federal Tobacco Products Labelling Regulations (Cigarettes and Little Cigars), which received final approval on September 22, 2011. The Canadian Cancer Society has strongly supported these regulations. The enhanced package warning system for cigarettes and little cigars also includes:

  • The addition of a toll-free quit line number and a web link to the warning messages. International data show that calls to quit lines increase substantially when a toll-free number is added prominently to the package.
  • For the first time, warnings about certain health effects of smoking, e.g. bladder cancer and vision loss, are included.
  • A set of eight new, full-colour, picture-based messages inside the packages.
  • An improved set of toxic emission messages that will appear in rotation on the side of the package, to replace the existing message.

In 2000, Canada set a world precedent by becoming the first country to require picture warnings on tobacco packages, with regulations taking effect in 2001. There are now 47 countries/jurisdictions that have followed the Canadian model.

“The new warnings highlight the importance of Health Canada’s Federal Tobacco Control Strategy, which is the federal framework for tobacco control regulations. This strategy is set to expire on March 31, 2012, after having been in place for eleven years,” adds Demers. “It is essential that Health Canada renew its tobacco strategy with sustained funding to ensure that tobacco control initiatives are as effective as possible. Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada, and yet 17 per cent of Canadians are still smokers.”

As part of its mission to eradicate cancer, the Canadian Cancer Society is a leader in advocating for public policies that will provide a healthier future for Canadians. Tobacco control is a key issue for the Society as smoking causes an estimated 30 per cent of all cancer deaths and is related to more than 85 per cent of lung cancer cases.


The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Rob Cunningham

Senior Policy Analyst

Canadian Cancer Society

National office

Phone: (613) 565-2522 ext 4981