Canadian Cancer Society applauds approval of larger picture health warnings for cigarette packages

27 September 2011

Toronto -

Today, federal Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq announced final Cabinet approval of a new set of larger, graphic health warnings for cigarette and little cigar packages. The new labels include 16 warnings that will cover 75% of the package front and back, eight additional picture-based messages to be printed inside the package (or on an insert), and four toxic emission messages for the side panel. The new warnings will be required to appear on packages at the retail level as of June 19, 2012.

“We congratulate Health Minister Aglukkaq for bringing forward the new health warnings,” says Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society. “The Minister is demonstrating global leadership by requiring the tobacco industry to apply the new set of larger, enhanced warnings. This is an important public health achievement.”

“These larger picture warnings cannot be ignored. They will help inform Canadians, including youth, of the truly devastating health effects of smoking, and will contribute to reductions in both smoking and cancer.” adds Cunningham. “A key aspect of the new warnings is the increase in size – the larger the size, the greater the effectiveness. Moreover, the addition of a toll-free quitline number to every package will make it easier for smokers to obtain quitting advice from trained specialists.”

Two of the new warnings will feature striking images of the late Barb Tarbox, who died of lung cancer. Ms Tarbox, from Alberta, told her story to students in many schools before she died.

On December 30, 2010, Minister Aglukkaq had announced the federal government’s plans for new warnings, and released four of 16 picture-based messages. A regulatory process and public consultations have since followed, leading to final approval by Cabinet. The final Tobacco Products Labelling Regulations (Cigarettes and Little Cigars) will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part II. Tobacco manufacturers and importers will be required to make changes to packaging by March 21, 2012, with the implementation deadline in retail stores being June 19, 2012.

The enhanced package warning system for cigarettes and little cigars includes:

  • A set of 16 new package health warnings, with an increase in warning size from 50 per cent to 75 per cent of the package front and back.
  • The use of testimonials, notably warnings featuring images of the late Barb Tarbox before she died of lung cancer, as well as Leroy Kehler who speaks through a hole in his throat following cancer of the larynx (voice box).
  • The addition of a toll-free quit line number and a web address 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, e.g. bladder cancer and vision loss, are included.
  • A set of eight new full-colour picture-based messages appearing inside the package.
  • An improved set of toxic emission messages that will appear in rotation on the side of the package, to replace the existing message.

Tobacco products are the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada, killing 37,000 Canadians annually. Tobacco products are responsible for about 30 per cent of cancer deaths and for 85 per cent of lung cancers.

View the new picture warnings

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

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For more information, please contact:

Rob Cunningham

Senior Policy Analyst

Canadian Cancer Society

National office

Phone: (613) 565-2522 ext 4981