Canada will become the first country in the world to print a warning on every cigarette. The move comes two decades after the country became a trendsetter by including graphic photo warnings on tobacco products’ packaging.
“We have to respond to the concern that these messages have lost their novelty, and we are a little concerned that they are also losing their impact,” said Carolyn Bennett, Minister for Mental Health and Addictions, during a press conference on Friday.
“Adding health warnings on individual tobacco products will help ensure that these essential messages reach people, including the youth who often access cigarettes one at a time in social situations, sidestepping the information printed on a package.”
The government expects the change to take effect at the end of 2023.
Although the exact message printed on cigarettes may change, Bennett says the current proposition is: “Poison in every puff.”
Bennett also issued an expanded warning for cigarette packages that includes a long list of health effects of smoking, including stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, and peripheral vascular disease.
Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, said he hopes warnings printed directly on cigarettes will become as popular internationally as package warnings.
“This is going to set a world precedent,” Cunningham said, adding that no other country had such a rule. He hopes the warning will make a real difference.
Smoking rates have been steadily declining over the years. The most recent data from Statistics Canada (Statcan), released last month, shows that 10% of Canadians smoke regularly. The government wants to halve this rate by 2035.
StatCan noted that about 11% of Canadians over the age of 20 are current smokers, compared to just 4% of those between the ages of 15 and 19.