Canada, in a world first, proposes health warnings on individual cigarettes

Canada, in a world first, proposes health warnings on individual cigarettes

In an effort to reduce smoking in the country, the Canadian government is looking at introducing mandatory warnings on individual cigarettes going beyond those already featured on packets, it said on Friday.

The government will consult stakeholders on the proposed measure and, if implemented, Canada will be the first country in the world to introduce such labelling.

According to a release from Health Canada, the objective behind the idea for the new packaging is to “ensure that health-related messages reach people who often access cigarettes one at a time in social situations, particularly youth and young adults. Labelling the tipping paper of cigarettes and other tobacco products would make it virtually impossible to avoid health warnings altogether”.

The current warning on the packages include information about the harmful effect of smoking as well as images. But, users may have become used to them over the years, as minister for mental health and addictions and associate minister of gealth Carolyn Bennett told reporters in Ottawa on Friday, “We need to address the concern that these messages may have lost their novelty, and to an extent we worry that they may have lost their impact as well.”

The intent behind the move to reduce the number of people smoking in the country.

“Through Canada’s Tobacco Strategy we are working to reduce tobacco use from 13% to less than 5% by 2035, which is a commitment we keep making strides towards. Making sure that everyone across the country can receive credible information on the risks of tobacco use so they can make healthier choices is crucial for the wellbeing of everyone,” Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said.

Health Canada noted that “tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of illness and premature death in Canada”, claiming about 48,000 lives each year.

The idea for the updated labelling was welcomed by health advocates. Terry Dean, President and CEO, Canadian Lung Association, described it as “a bold and impactful strategy.”

“The proposed regulations are an essential, effective measure to reduce tobacco use and are internationally groundbreaking in several respects, including with some world precedent setting provisions,” Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, said.



    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

Vijay Singh

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