Canada ranks 4th in International Cigarette Health Warnings report, with Australia in the lead

14 November 2012

Toronto -

Following the implementation of new Canadian warnings covering 75% of cigarette packages, Canada’s world ranking for package health warnings has improved to fourth in 2012 from fifteenth in 2010, according to an international report released today by the Canadian Cancer Society. The report ranks 198 countries and jurisdictions on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages, and also lists countries that have finalized requirements for picture warnings. The report was released at the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) being held in Seoul, South Korea, from November 12 to 17.

“Canada’s improvement in the international rankings is very positive, and we recognize the Minister of Health, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, for bringing forward highly effective new warnings in Canada,” says Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society.

While Cunningham commended the Minister of Health for work done so far, he also urged the government to do more toward implementing the second phase for new warnings in Canada.

“Canada’s international ranking deserves significant praise, but a lot of work remains to be done for Canada to further improve tobacco package warning requirements,” says Cunningham.

Health Canada announced in early 2011 that there would be two phases to renew health-related labels on all tobacco products. The first phase applied to cigarettes and little cigars, and the second phase will apply to all other tobacco products, such as roll-your-own tobacco, smokeless tobacco, little cigars weighing more than 1.4 grams, pipe tobacco and waterpipe tobacco. Many of the product categories without new warnings are heavily flavoured with fruit and candy tastes and have become popular starter products for youth.

The Society’s report, published every two years since 2008, reviews and ranks the cigarette health warnings at the international level and tracks developments in this important area of tobacco control. The most significant progress since the last report is Australia’s adoption of plain packaging for tobacco products, with an implementation date of December 1, 2012, at the retail level. Australia has ranked first in this report.

“We urge Minister Aglukkaq to follow Australia’s lead and take steps to implement plain packaging in Canada,” says Cunningham.

Today, 63 countries and jurisdictions – accounting for more than 40% of the world’s population – have finalized picture warnings, an increase from the 34 that had implemented this measure in 2010. In 2001, Canada was the first country to require picture warnings. It was also the first to require that the pictures cover 50% of the package, a measure that ranked Canada first in the world at the time.

“Package warnings are a highly cost-effective means to increase awareness of the health effects and to reduce the use of tobacco,” says Cunningham “A picture says a thousand words. Pictures can convey a message with far more impact than a text-only message. We are greatly encouraged by the progress being made internationally to implement these types of health warnings on cigarette packaging and by the number of countries increasing the size of warnings.”

Other highlights from the report include:

  • Australia now has the largest warnings in the world, covering 82.5% of the package front and back (75% front, 90% back) and surpassing Uruguay, the previous holder of this title. Australia has also implemented plain packaging to prohibit tobacco company colours, logos and design elements on the brand part of the package.
  • 47 countries and jurisdictions have warnings covering at least 50% of the cigarette package front and back, up from 32 in 2010 and 24 in 2008.
  • 18 countries and jurisdictions have warnings covering more than 50% of the package front and back. The top 10 ranking countries in terms of warning size on the front and back are:

82.5% Australia (75% of front, 90% of back)

80% Uruguay (80%, 80%)

80% Sri Lanka (80%, 80%)

75% Canada (75%, 75%)

75% Brunei (75%, 75%)

65% Mauritius (60%, 70%)

65% Mexico (30%, 100%)

60% Ecuador (60%, 60%)

60% New Zealand (30%, 90%)

60% Cook Islands (30%, 90%)

The goal of the FCTC – the international tobacco treaty – is to control the global tobacco epidemic. Countries that ratify the FCTC agree to put in place health policy controls to reduce tobacco use, for example, health warnings on tobacco products, banning tobacco advertising and ensuring indoor workplaces and public places are smoke-free.

Warnings report in English

Warnings report in French


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