New tobacco laws set in motion

For smokers already repulsed by the images of blackened lungs and pregnant mothers on their favourite pack of cigarettes, it’s gotten worse.

 The Tobacco Products Labelling Regulation is now requiring all cigarette and small cigar packaging to display larger health warning graphics.

Suzie Boisvenue, Health Canada spokesperson, said that graphic labels have been used since tobacco product regulation laws were set in place in 2000.

“There’s been an evolution of health warnings that date back to the ’80s when warning signs were in black and white.”

As of last Wednesday, cigarette manufacturers and importers are no longer permitted to sell or distribute products that don’t display new health warnings.

The nearby corner store or gas station you stop at everyday will soon enforce new laws as well. Retailers have until June 18 to sell all inventory displaying the old warnings.

Those choosing not to comply with new regulations may face fines of up to $100,000 or imprisonment.This is an example of one of the warning labels that is expected to be used.
Screen grab courtesy of: the Government of Canada

The Health Canada website states that the actual cigarette labels may now take up a mere 25 per cent of packaging, while the other 75 per cent of both the front and back of packages will be left for health warnings.

In addition to 16 new and larger graphics approved by Health Canada, eight new interior health information messages will also be a part of packaging reforms.

And for those smokers who aren’t familiar with the chemical ingredients their lungs inhale — new easy-to-read toxic emission statements can be found on the side panels of each pack.

Health Canada officials hope that the larger warnings will continue to help decrease smoking. According to a 2010 Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey, since the smaller graphics made their first appearance in 2000, annual cigarette sales have decreased to 4.3 billion packages from 4.6 billion.

But smokers interviewed don’t think the new labels will change a thing.

Loyan Mohamed, a smoker of seven years, said: “If my wife and kids haven’t been able to get me to quit, bigger pictures won’t. I’m sure everybody knows cigarettes cause cancer.”

While acknowledging Health Canada’s efforts seem to be for the good of the public, Misty Michalezki said she believes the changes are a waste of time.

“I do not think it will make a difference,” she said. “I believe smoking has a lot more to do with peer pressure, family and television.”

aahme532@mymru.ca