Canada could soon be the first country to put cancer warnings on individual cigarettes.
The proposed change was revealed in a recent Health Canada consultation document, which highlights ways to reduce smoking levels in the country.
One of the proposals is to require individual cigarettes come with a health warning. Health Canada said the design, such as size, wording, font and colour are still being considered.
“There is recent but limited research showing that health warnings placed directly on a product, such as cigarettes, could be effective in making the product less appealing to users,” the document states.
The consultation document includes a picture of a cigarette with the words “smoking causes cancer” in block letters as an example of what the proposed change could look like.
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Currently, health warnings are only required on cigarette packs.
“It’s a great idea. It would convey a health message to a smoker every time they have a cigarette and create discussion,” Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, said.
“There are more than 25 billion cigarettes sold in Canada each year, so this could have an incredible reach. So every time they smoke, the message is in their hand and it cannot be ignored.”
Cunningham said if Canada were to implement this rule, it could set a precedent and other countries “would follow.”
He said Canada was the first country to require a picture warning on cigarette packs, and after this, more than 100 countries followed suit.
The government is also suggesting putting warning labels on products that were previously exempt, including heated tobacco, water pipe tobacco and blunt wraps.
Other proposed changes include adding brighter colours and cartoons to existing warning labels.
The proposals are open to public feedback until Jan. 4, 2019.
Smoking (slightly) on the rise in Canada
The announcement of the proposed changes comes after Health Canada released a report stating that smoking rates are slightly on the rise.
In 2017 the smoking rate in Canada was 15 per cent (4.6 million smokers), an increase from 13 per cent (3.9 million smokers) in 2015.
Ottawa said it is committed to reducing tobacco use to less than five per cent of Canadians by 2035.
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