Government of Canada proposes to print health warnings on individual cigarettes
Proposed measures seek to strengthen regulations for tobacco product packaging and labelling
June 10, 2022 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada
Despite decades of efforts, tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of illness and premature death in Canada, killing approximately 48,000 Canadians each year. While novel and provocative when introduced more than a decade ago, the current warnings on tobacco products have become stale for the 13% of people in Canada who smoke and come across them regularly.
Recognizing that more needs to be done to protect the health of people in Canada and ensure people stay informed about the health risks of tobacco use, the Government of Canada is proposing to update the health-related messages and images printed on packages of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Today, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister for Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced the launch of a 75-day public consultation period beginning on June 11 to seek feedback from people in Canada that will inform the development of new proposed tobacco labelling regulations.
A key feature of the proposed regulations is the introduction of written health warnings printed on individual cigarettes, cigars that have a filter, and cigarette tubes.
This new packaging would help 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. If implemented, Canada would be the first country in the world to introduce such a requirement.
The proposed regulations would also build on existing requirements by updating current health-related messages, extending messaging requirements to all tobacco product packages and implementing periodic rotation of messages among other measures. These messages would include an extended list of health hazards and negative health effects to be featured on tobacco product health warnings and health information messages, including stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, and cervical cancer.
In addition, the proposed regulations would support Canada's Tobacco Strategy by preventing long-term dependence on tobacco, reducing tobacco-related death and disease, and reducing the burden on Canada's health care system and society.
The proposed regulations can be found in the Canada Gazette, Part I. To participate in the consultation, interested parties can submit their comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org until August 25th. Feedback from the consultation will inform the development of the final Regulations.
"Reducing the devastating harms of tobacco use remains a top priority for health and health care in Canada. To better inform Canadians about the effects of smoking on their health and on the health of those around them, our government is proposing to strengthen regulations that would introduce new warnings of health hazards and negative health effects on tobacco products. If implemented, they would prevent the preventable as they better communicate the health risks of smoking to millions of people across the country each day, helping more Canadians live healthier, happier, and tobacco-free lives."
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
"As a government, we are committed to use every tool at our disposal — including tobacco packaging and labelling — to help protect the health of all Canadians, especially young people and non-smokers. 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."
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
"As a world leader in smoking cessation and the home of the Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute welcomes any initiative to reduce the consumption of tobacco and tobacco-derived products to prevent heart attacks and save thousands of lives in Canada."
Dr. Thierry Mesana
President and CEO, University of Ottawa Heart Institute
"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. Canada already has the world's best tobacco plain packaging regulations. With the proposed regulations, Canada would also have the world's best overall tobacco health warning system, including enhanced messages on the package exterior, messages inside the package that are internationally unique, and health messages on the cigarette itself, a world first."
Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society
"Heart & Stroke applauds the federal government's proposal to strengthen health warnings for tobacco packaging including the bold measure of adding warnings on cigarettes themselves. Messages that clearly and directly highlight the dangers associated with these products will reduce their appeal to youth as well as support current smokers in their efforts to quit smoking."
CEO, Heart & Stroke
"We were extremely pleased to see the announcement made by Minister Bennett on measures to strengthen tobacco product labeling. Included today was a proposal to have warnings directly on cigarettes, which is a bold and impactful strategy, one that will continue Canada's trend of being a leader in tobacco control. This will ensure that the message of how dangerous these products are to the lung health of Canadians cannot be missed."
President and CEO, Canadian Lung Association
"These proposed new warnings are an important advance in public health protection. They provide another welcome example of Canadian innovation in tobacco regulation."
Executive Director, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
"The health warning messages and images are not only seen by smokers themselves but also by those close to them, including children. With more than a billion warnings circulating in Canada each year, they are far-reaching and contribute massively to public education efforts regarding the risks of smoking, in addition to being cost-free."
Co-Director and spokesperson for the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac
Over the past few decades, tobacco use prevalence has fallen from 28% in 1998 to 13% today.
Canada first adopted pictorial warning requirements for tobacco product packages in 2000 to increase awareness of the health hazards and health effects associated with tobacco use. The labels featured on tobacco product packages combine strong images with messages that are noticeable, informative and credible.
Current health-related messages and images for cigarettes and little cigars have been in place since 2011. Those for most remaining tobacco products have remained unchanged since their introduction in 2000.
The proposed regulations would build on the achievements of the current tobacco product labelling requirements. They would also consolidate all tobacco product labelling and packaging requirements in a single set of regulations: the Tobacco Products Packaging and Labelling Regulations.
The proposed regulations would support the objectives of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, in particular to enhance public awareness about the health hazards of tobacco use. They would also support Canada's Tobacco Strategy and its target of reaching less than 5% tobacco use by 2035.
The proposed regulations would bring Canada into full compliance with its tobacco labelling obligations under Article 11 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control by extending health warning and toxicity information requirements to all tobacco product packages.
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
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