Warnings about the dangers of smoking will be printed directly on cigarettes themselves in Canada in what is believed to be a world first.
Smokers will literally have warnings like “Cigarettes cause cancer” and “Poison in every puff” spelled out beneath their noses every time they take a drag, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Other warnings printed on cigarettes north of the U.S. border will read “Cigarettes damage your organs” and “Tobacco smoke harms children” when the federal mandate is imposed on king-size cigarettes Aug. 1. Makers of regular-size cigarettes have until July 31, 2024 to print warnings on single smokes. Cigarillo makers have until April 30, 2025 to comply.
Canada’s Associate Minister of Health and Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett said Wednesday individual warnings on cigarettes paired with “updated graphic images” on packaging marks a bold new approach to saving lives.
“Tobacco use continues to kill 48,000 Canadians each year,” Bennett said. “We are taking action by being the first country in the world to label individual cigarettes with health warning messages.”
The Centers for Disease Control says 10 times that many people in the U.S. die annually due to smoking.
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada CEO Doug Roth praised the government’s efforts to further warn smokers of the risks. “Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada and these important new measures will protect youth and support current smokers in their efforts to quit,” Roth said.
Canadian officials reportedly hope to get tobacco use under 5% by 2035. Tobacco prevalence is now at 13%, according to the CBC. Nearly half of Canada’s health care costs associated with substance issues are blamed on cigarettes.
New cigarette packaging warnings will consume at least 75% of the main display area on packs and boxes. That will be accompanied by updated messages on the inside of cigarette packaging sold by retailers starting April 30, 2024.
One anti-smoking advocate told the CBC she would like to see packaging reform applied to vaping products too. A recently published Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey found teens in the Great White North have one of the highest vaping rates worldwide.