Canada announces new picture warnings to cover 75% of package front and back

On Thursday December 30, Canada’s Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq, announced that a new set of 16 picture-based warnings on cigarette packages will be required.  These new warnings will cover 75% of the package front and back, up from the current 50%.
Below (in both English and French) is the Canadian government’s news release regarding the new warnings, as well as an accompanying fact sheet.  The full set of 16 warnings has not yet been released.  Examples of the new warnings can be seen at the web link of the fact sheet, which is as follows:
At 75%, Canada will have the second largest warnings in the world, with Uruguay having the largest at 80% of the package front and back.  (Honduras is in the process of adopting regulations to also require 80% warnings.)
In Canada, a regulatory process still needs to be complete, and can be expected to take about six months.  Draft regulations are to be published early in the new year, followed by a consultation period.  The full set of 16 warnings, as well as interior and side panel messages, can be expected to be public when draft regultions are released.  New warnings can be expected to appear on packages towards the end of 2011.  Minister of Health Aglukkaq said that the new warnings will appear on packages in 2011, without being more specific.
Canada was the first country to require picture warnings and the first country to require 50% warnings.  These appeared on packages in 2001, and have been unchanged since then.
Some other aspects of the new labelling measures include:
– improving messages inside the package with new content and by requiring full colour pictures (the interior messages appear on an insert for flip top packages, and on the “slide” part of “slide and shell” packages, a type of package with a significant presence in Canada).  Canada currently requires text-only interior messages.  Canada is currently the only country to require messages inside the package in addition to outside.
– requiring a toll-free quitline number as part of the warning messages on the package front and back. No such number currently appears on packages in Canada
– requiring a web address to appear on the package front and back as part of the warning messages. In Canada, a web address currently appears only on interior messages
– requiring a set of six toxic emission messages (with no ISO or other machine-based yield numbers) to appear on the side of the package.  A series of other countries have already required qualitative emission messages without yield numbers.  Canada will become the second country (after Djibouti) known to require a rotated set of side panel messages in addition to warnings on the package front and back.
– linking package warnings to a broader communications campaign using social media – the website address on the package will be a way to link to social media
The new requirements will apply to packages of cigarettes and little cigars.   Updated requirements for other tobacco products will be developed at a later stage.

Harper Government to strengthen and enlarge health warnings on cigarette packages

30 December 2010-OTTAWA – The Harper Government announced today it intends to launch updated, larger health warning messages and a toll-free quitline on cigarette and little cigar packages that will be the backbone of a social marketing campaign to encourage smokers to quit. The announcement was made by the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health and Pierre Poilievre, Member of Parliament for Nepean-Carleton.

“The combination of larger health warning messages and social marketing will help the new messages reach as many smokers as possible,” said Minister Aglukkaq. “This comprehensive strategy will ensure Canada remains a world leader in tobacco control initiatives.” “Giving Canadians the straight-up goods on the dangers of tobacco use in a more prominent and visible way through larger, more effective tobacco warning labels is a significant step in our ongoing battle to reduce tobacco consumption and, ultimately, cardiovascular disease,” said Irfhan Rawji, chair of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

“The Foundation commends the federal government for this important step in encouraging Canadians to be smoke-free and live healthier, longer lives.” At a news conference today, Minister Aglukkaq unveiled four of the initial new, stronger messages and committed to a rotation of messages so that they avoid losing effectiveness over time. “We applaud the Health Minister’s commitment to require tougher warning labels on tobacco products,” said Heather Borquez, President and CEO of the Canadian Lung Association. “Strong, graphic health warnings on cigarette packages are a key part of the broad effort needed to keep young people from smoking and encourage existing smokers to quit.” Key features of the new label requirements include: New, larger graphic health warnings that will feature new diseases and, for the first time, testimonials from individuals affected by tobacco use. The warnings will cover 75% of the front and back of cigarette and little cigar packages, up from the current 50%. A pan-Canadian quitline and web URL. Provisional on provincial and territorial agreement, Health Canada intends to include on packages a pan-Canadian quitline number and web URL that would seamlessly connect smokers to provincial and territorial phone cessation support services. Improved health information messages and toxic emission statements. The addition of colour and graphics to health information messages will make them more noticeable, while new toxic emission statements will be easier to understand. In addition to the labelling changes, Health Canada is developing a social marketing campaign targeting smokers, including young adults. Multimedia, including social networks across the Web, will be used to reach teenagers and young adults. The new health warning messages will build on the success of the Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed At Youth Act. The Act, which became law in October 2009, makes it harder for industry to entice young people to smoke. The messages will also complement new and existing cessation and prevention initiatives, resulting in a comprehensive and integrated approach to tobacco control. Tobacco use costs the Canadian health care systems $4.4 billion a year in direct costs and continues to kill 37,000 Canadians every year. -30-

Media Enquiries: Health Canada (613) 957-2983 Tim Vail Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq Federal Minister of Health (613) 957-0200 Public Enquiries: (613) 957-2991 1-866 225-0709

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