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Following a lengthy regulatory process, Canada's new cigarette package warnings are the first with photographs, and the first covering 50% of the package front and back.
The content of the new warnings was finalised on 26 June 2000 when the cabinet of the Canadian government adopted the Tobacco Products Information Regulations under the Tobacco Act. Before adoption, the regulations had received unanimous approval by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, following public hearings, and by the House of Commons as a whole. Considerable research and other work by the Canadian Department of Health and by health organisations contributed significantly to the development of the regulations.
The regulations require that one of 16 rotated picture based warnings, in full colour, cover 50% of the top of the front and back of the package, with English on one side and French on the other.
Inside the package, one of 16 additional messages is required, either on an insert, or on the “slide” portion of slide and shell packages. Nine of the interior messages emphasise quitting advice, while seven focus on health effects. The interior messages—which are text only and in black, yellow, and white—contain a web address for further information. The interior messages are a world precedent.
The required messages are reproduced on the web site of Health Canada (the ministry of health).
For cigarette brands with more than 2% market share, altogether representing about 60% of the cigarette market, the new exterior warnings are required by 23 December 2000 at the manufacturer level. For other cigarette brands, and for other tobacco products, the new labelling requirements come into effect 26 June 2001.
On the side of the package, a range of yields of tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and benzene must be displayed. The lower end of the range is based on the ISO test method, with the upper end based on a modified ISO method to take into account smoker compensation. Requiring a range of yields is a world first, as is requiring yields for six substances.
The warnings for cigarettes are also required on packages of roll-your-own tobacco, tobacco sticks, kreteks (Indonesian style clove cigarettes), and leaf tobacco for retail sale. On cartons, including for cigarettes, picture based warnings are required on 50% of all six sides. For packages of cigars and pipe tobacco, one of four rotated picture based warnings is required. For packages of smokeless tobacco and bidis, one of four text only warnings is required.
Following adoption of the regulations, tobacco manufacturers filed a legal challenge, arguing that the regulations: (1) expropriated their packages; (2) were unauthorised by the Tobacco Act; and (3) were an unjustified infringement of constitutional protection of freedom of expression. The companies applied for a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the new warnings pending the outcome of the trial, but on 20 September 2000 Justice Danielle Grenier of Quebec Superior Court dismissed the application. The manufacturers announced they would not appeal and would comply with the December deadline. Manufacturers had previously argued that printing the colour warnings was not feasible, a desperate, incredible, and fortunately unsuccessful argument.
Our cover this issue features an original painting titled One Lung by Phoenix, Arizona artist Mr Albert Ortiz. Mr Ortiz, now in his 70s, has produced a series of paintings which he hopes will discourage smoking. Some of these may be found on his website (http://members.tripod.com/NoSmokingArt/). He welcomes use of these for educational purposes.