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Canadian Lung Association Welcomes Federal Action On New Tobacco Warnings

October 05, 2017

The Canadian Lung Association (CLA) is praising the federal government's unveiling of stronger warning labels for tobacco products.

"The new warnings will help save the lives of thousands of Canadians", says Heather Borquez, CLA's President and CEO. "Research has demonstrated that larger warning labels with graphic images will deter young people from smoking and encourage existing smokers to quit."1

Health Canada has issued draft regulations for the warnings on tobacco packages, including proposed combinations of graphics and text. The new warnings will include important improvements to enhance their effectiveness:

- enlarged size, covering 75% of the front and back of packages of cigarettes and small cigars (up from 50%)

- 16 combinations of graphics and warning text

- new images including photographs of people severely affected by smoking-related disease

- testimonials from smokers

- addition of a national toll-free number and website address for support in quitting

- 8 new full-colour warning messages inside the packages

- Improved toxic emissions warnings on the sides of packages

"The stronger warning labels are especially important to help deter our youth from smoking," says Ms. Borquez. "We need to prevent the emergence of another generation of smokers."

Despite past reductions, smoking rates in Canada have stalled at 18-19%. Recent statistics show that the smoking rate among youth aged 15 to 19 years is 13% (approximately 286,000 teens) and among young adults aged 20 to 24 years is 23% (about 523,000 young adults).2

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in Canada today, killing over 37,000 people every year.3 According to the Canadian Medical Association over 50% of smokers die of smoking-related disease, including respiratory illnesses like lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Research studies have shown that warning labels on packages are an effective, low-cost way to provide information on the health dangers of cigarettes to both potential and current smokers, provided they are changed regularly to maintain their impact.4 Strong warnings are effective in discouraging young people from smoking and motivating current smokers to quit.5, 6, 7

The Canadian Lung Association is asking all Members of Parliament to support the new regulations and looks forward to their implementation by the end of the year.

1. White V, Webster B and Wakefield M, Do graphic health warning labels have an impact on adolescents' smoking-related beliefs and behaviours? Addiction Research Report, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, The Cancer Council Victoria, Victoria, Australia, 2009

2. Health Canada

3. Health Canada

4. Hammond D, Fong GT, McNeill A, et al. Effectiveness of cigarette warning labels in informing smokers about the risks of smoking: findings from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Four Country Survey. Tob Control 2006;15(Suppl 3):iii19-25.

5. International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project. FCTC Article 11 tobacco warning labels: evidence and recommendations from the ITC project. Waterloo (ON): Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo; 2009. Available here.(accessed Dec. 10, 2010).

6. Environics Research Group. Testing New Health Warning Messages for Cigarette packages: A Summary of Three Phases of Focus Group Research: Final Report. Prepared for Health Canada; 2000.

7. Borland R, Hammond D, Fong GT, et al. Findings from the ITC-4 Country Study: Wave 5.

Canadian Lung Association