Canada Plans Health Warnings on Every Cigarette

The Canadian government is set to put health warnings on each cigarette and ban certain types of plastics, parts of a new round of regulations from the Trudeau government.

“Poison in every puff.” By 2023, this is the warning the Canadian government is planning on having on each cigarette sold in the country. This will make Canada the first in the world to do so, much as it did with graphic health warnings on packages of cigarettes in 2001.

Changes are also proposed for the health warnings on packages; they would be required to cover 75 percent of the back and front of each package and include warnings about colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer and diabetes. These are among the 16 diseases — besides lung cancer — believed caused by cigarettes.

Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, said putting a warning on each cigarette will make sure the health message gets delivered every single time one is lit.

“Sometimes you experiment by smoking, by ‘borrowing’ a cigarette from a friend or a brother or sister without directly touching the package. And so … this type of reach to kids experimenting is a very positive thing,” he said. “Sometimes smokers who go out for a smoke break will just take a cigarette, not the full package, when they go outside.”

The Canadian government is also banning the importing or manufacturing of plastic bags and containers, like those used for restaurant takeout meals, by the end of 2022. It will ban sales of the bags and containers by the end of 2023 and exports of them by year’s end in 2025.  

The government is also working toward abolishing many single-use plastics, like those for straws, stir sticks for drinks, cutlery and the plastic rings used to hold together six- and 12-packs of cans and bottles.

Plastic was listed as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in 2021.

Sarah King, head of Greenpeace Canada’s oceans and plastics campaign, said the move is a good start, but there is still more work to be done.

“We still aren’t even at the starting line in terms of tackling Canada’s plastic waste and pollution problem,” she said. “So, you know, we definitely are keen to see the government take plastic reduction more seriously and start accelerating our transition to more reuse-, refill-centered systems.”

But Stewart Prest, a political scientist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, said some Canadians would be upset by the new initiatives, seeing them as examples of over-regulation and the extension of a so-called “nanny state.”

“I think reactions will be divided,” he said. “I think this is the kind of issue that’s going to fit very well within the existing political dynamic polarization that we see in Canada, where any attempt by the government to regulate — to try to nudge Canadians in a particular direction — is going to be met with great, extreme skepticism in some quarters.”

The next general election is expected to occur in October 2025, which is well after the new regulations take effect.



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