Canada unveiled some of the world’s largest and most graphic anti-smoking labels on Tuesday on the grounds that smokers were starting to ignore existing warnings on cigarette packs.
The new labels will have to cover 75 percent of the front and back of each pack of cigarettes and small cigars, and will be mandatory by the middle of next year. Existing anti-smoking labels cover 50 percent of a pack.
The 16 labels include pictures of a woman dying of lung cancer in a hospital bed, a man with a hole in this throat after surgery for smoking-related larynx cancer and a close-up shot of a diseased and cancerous tongue.
“We want to make the images larger and more noticeable and more understandable ... The images are pretty gross. They can be a little bit scary as well, but that is the reality of smoking,” Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said.
“Over time, people get used to seeing the old pictures so we want to grab people’s attention once again,” she said at an event to unveil the images.
Tobacco manufacturers and importers will have until March 21 next year to switch over to the new labels and retailers must carry only packs with the bigger warnings by June 19.
“It’s fantastic ... the evidence is that the larger the size [of the label], the larger the impact,” said Rob Cunningham, a policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society.
Only Uruguay has tougher regulations, he said.
The adult smoking rate in Canada fell to a record low 17 percent last year from 24 percent in 2000, a year before the first warning labels started to appear.
The Canadian Public Health Association welcomed the move, calling smoking “the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and premature death in Canada.”