Canada's Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq walks past a display showing new warning labels for cigarette packages following a news conference in Ottawa December 30, 2010.
Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA - New tobacco warning labels have hit store the shelves and they're the latest and toughest the Canadian market has ever seen.
Under new federal regulations, the warnings must cover 75% of cigarette and cigarillo packages, up from 50%.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the new larger warnings are intended to "better reach people with low literacy levels, heavy smokers, and people thinking about quitting."
"As a result of action taken by our government, smoking rates in Canada are at an all-time low," Aglukkaq said.
The national smoking rate is lower than it has ever been at 17%, Statistics Canada figures released in September noted.
But Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, says the fight against tobacco needs to continue.
"A picture says a thousand words. These warnings are going to have an impact to reduce smoking. These are very vivid images, the truth about what smoking really does to the body," Cunningham said. "Tobacco companies oppose these warnings, which is a clear indication these warnings are going to work."
Canada's previous tobacco warnings remained unchanged for a decade.
A picture of Alberta anti-tobacco advocate Barb Tarbox is one of the new tobacco warning labels.
Tarbox, who died of lung cancer, shared her heartbreaking struggle with youth in the weeks leading up to her death.
Retailers started selling the packages featuring the new warnings in March. Businesses will have until June 19 to ditch old inventory.