The Canadian government announced Wednesday that it would become the first nation in the world to place warning labels on each cigarette. Implementation of the law begins Aug. 1, but will be done in phases.
The government said retailers will be required to carry tobacco product packages that feature the new health-related messages by the end of April 2024. King-size cigarettes will be required to contain health warnings by the end of July 2024. Regular-size cigarettes and cigars will be required to contain warnings by April 2025.
“The requirement for a health warning directly on every cigarette is a world precedent-setting measure that will reach every person who smokes with every puff,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society. “This innovative measure will be accompanied by enhanced warnings on the package exterior, and health messages on the package interior that are internationally unique. The new regulations deserve strong support.”
The government will also require a minimum of 75% of the main display area of tobacco packaging to include health warnings for most products.
Canada said its goal is to get its tobacco use rate to below 5% by 2035. As of 2020, 13% of Canadians over age 15 smoked cigarettes on a daily basis, according to government figures.
The Canadian government estimates that the health and economic costs associated with tobacco use in Canada were $12.3 billion (US$9.1 billion) in 2017, with direct health care costs of $6.1 billion (US$4.5 billion).
“Tobacco use continues to kill 48,000 Canadians each year. We are taking action by being the first country in the world to label individual cigarettes with health warning messages,” said Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s minister of Mental Health and Addictions and associate minister of Health. “This bold step will make health warning messages virtually unavoidable, and together with updated graphic images displayed on the package, will provide a real and startling reminder of the health consequences of smoking. We will continue to do whatever it takes to help more people in Canada stop smoking and help young people to live healthy tobacco-free lives.”
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