Canada to put bigger health warnings on cigarettes

Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:41pm EST
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will slap larger and enhanced warning labels on cigarette packs, the government announced on Thursday, in a step critics said was unduly delayed because of lobbying by tobacco companies.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the new warnings will cover three-quarters of the front and back of cigarette packs, up from one-half.

The new, graphic messages will include warnings about tobacco-related diseases such as bladder cancer and testimonials from cancer victims. As well there will be a phone number for a quit-smoking hotline

"Canadian and international research has shown that to be effective, health warnings must be noticeable and memorable. They must also be believable and relevant," Aglukkaq told reporters.

Ottawa will begin drafting regulations for the new warning labels in early 2011, but has no specific timeline for implementation. Tobacco companies will have a chance to comment during the process and the new rules will be phased in gradually, officials said.

In September of this year, the Conservative government confounded anti-smoking activists by freezing plans to update the warning labels after the health ministry spent six years devising the new campaign and agreeing on details with the country's 10 provinces, which administer public health care.

The policy change issued on Thursday prompted the main opposition Liberal Party, to accuse the government of flip-flopping after realizing its stance was unpopular.

"Only public uproar over the influence of the tobacco lobby has forced them to change course and so here they are with a hasty announcement designed to cover their tracks buried in the holiday season," said Liberal legislator Ujjal Dosanjh.   Continued...

<p>A woman takes a photo of a display showing new warning labels for cigarette packages following a news conference in Ottawa December 30, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>