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Canada Could Be The First Country To Add A Warning To Every Cigarette

Health Canada wants public feedback on the proposed labelling.

MTL Blog, Staff Writer
​A line of cigarettes on a blue background with "POISON IN EVERY PUFF" printed on each filter.

A line of cigarettes on a blue background with "POISON IN EVERY PUFF" printed on each filter.

Health Canada wants to breathe new life into stale cigarette packaging with more visible health warnings, not just on packs, but on individual smokes. "Poison in every puff" could soon be printed in stark black lettering on every cigarette filter to improve public awareness of smoking health risks, reduce cigarette appeal, and encourage smokers to think twice before they light up. If the federal government adopts the proposed regulations, Canada would be the first country in the world to introduce such a requirement.

Current warnings on tobacco products were phased in over two decades ago, and experts warn they've become easy to ignore for the 4.2 million smokers nationwide who see them on a regular basis. Tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of illness and premature death in the country, killing around 48,000 Canadians every year and making up around 30% of all cancer deaths.

"To help protect the health of all Canadians, especially young people and non-smokers… we are working to reduce tobacco use from 13% to less than 5% by 2035," said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

The proposed regulatory changes would make existing health warnings for all tobacco products much larger and more image-based with new information on smoking cessation resources and health hazards that would rotate every 24 to 36 months.

Two cigarette packages; the one on the left has an information message on the upper flap, and the one on the right has health warnings on the tip of every cigarette. Two cigarette packages; the one on the left has an information message on the upper flap, and the one on the right has health warnings on the tip of every cigarette. Health Canada

Two new visual warnings would be added to cigarette packs, increasing the warning size to around three-fourths of the front and back labels. Inside flaps would feature information to help smokers quit and mention lesser-known smoking health risks, including colorectal, cervical, and stomach cancer.

"Requiring a health warning on each individual cigarette will reach every smoker with every puff and should be implemented as soon as possible," said Canadian Cancer Society Senior Policy Analyst Rob Cunningham.

"A warning on every cigarette cannot be ignored, especially considering that there are more than 20 billion cigarettes sold each year in Canada. [...} the measure is supported by several dozen studies in Canada and internationally."

Canada was the first country in the world to adopt picture warnings on cigarette packages in 2001. There are now more than 130 countries that have implemented picture-based health warnings, following the precedent set by Canada, according to a 2021 Canadian Cancer Society report.

The federal government has launched a public consultation on the proposed changes and is seeking feedback from Canadians on developing the new labelling regulations through August 25.

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