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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Canada's Tobacco Package Label or Warning System: "Telling the Truth" about Tobacco Product Risks

  • Author(s): Mahood, Garfield;
  • World Health Organization
  • et al.

Canada’s Tobacco Package Label or Warning System: “Telling the Truth” about Tobacco Product Risks. The Need for an Effective Package-Based Label System. The World Health Organization’s draft Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will be presented to the World Health Assembly in May 2003. Its call for dramatically improved tobacco warnings worldwide reflects growing interest in tobacco package labelling or warning systems (1). This interest is augmented by greatly improved warnings now appearing on the shelves of retail outlets throughout the European Union, and by the announcements of other countries, such as Malaysia, of the planned introduction of reforms modelled on the Canadian or Brazilian warnings. This heightened interest created by the FCTC proc-ess, and the encouragement it provides to parties to the Convention to implement more effective warnings, raises significant questions. Why are bigger and bolder warnings better? What messages are most effective? What tactics might be expected from an industry determined to under-mine any measure that might cut its sales?

Canada has been one of the pioneering countries in devel-oping and implementing innovative labelling requirements for tobacco products. This Country Report on warnings has been prepared in the hope that it will make a timely contribution to the development of similar reforms in other countries. Though some aspects of Canadian warnings are now well known, particularly the use of images, the debate and analysis that led Canada to move ahead in this area are less well understood. The gradual move towards large, explicit and graphic health messages came about because of a deepening understanding of the misinforma-tion and deception that underlie the tobacco epidemic.

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