New, larger health warnings on cigarette packages begin appearing on store shelves

27 February 2012

Winnipeg, Manitoba -

A Manitoban who has long-fought to reduce tobacco use in Canada will be prominently featured in new larger graphic picture warnings on cigarette packages that are now showing up on the shelves in retail stores across the country.

Leroy Kehler has spoken to thousands of school children about the health dangers of smoking. He has also spoken out about the need for regulations to safeguard Manitobans from the negative health effects of smoking and second hand smoke. A life-time smoker, Kehler was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx (voice box) at the age of 48. He now breathes through a hole in his throat and speaks through a prosthetic voice box.

“Smoking not only got me,’’ he said. “It killed three of my family members.

“That’s why I work with the Canadian Cancer Society to help people quit smoking, or even better – to not start in the first place. I don’t want others to face what I’ve had to in my life.”

To see Leroy’s story, follow this link: vimeo.com/31067002. For a copy of the new packaging, go to: smoke-free.ca/warnings/Canada-warnings-on-packages.htm

The new Health Canada warnings are graphic and 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. In addition to Kehler, the set of 16 new warnings also include powerful images of the late Barb Tarbox of Alberta before she died of lung cancer. 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 www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Jason Permanand

Communications Manager

Canadian Cancer Society

Manitoba

Phone: 204-990-4310