Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Graphic cigarette packages having an effect

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TORONTO -- When it comes to warning people about the dangers of cigarettes, Canada's leading cancer researcher says we're not just blowing smoke.

The Canadian Cancer Society says Canada's cigarette packaging bears some of the most prominent health messages in the world.

The society says three-quarters of the space on Canadian packaging is now devoted to pictures and text discouraging smokers from lighting up.

That places Canada fourth in a ranking of 198 countries, up sharply from a 15th-place finish two years ago.

Australia took top spot by covering 82.5 per cent of its packages with health warnings, followed by Uruguay and Sri Lanka.

The society says Canada has regained much of the ground it lost in recent years, but says the country's health policy makers still have some lessons to learn from global leaders.

Senior policy analyst Rob Cunningham said much of Canada's progress comes as a result of federal regulations that went into effect on June 19.

The new rules require tobacco companies to cover 75 per cent of cigarette packages with pictures depicting the effects of lung cancer and text enumerating the health risks associated with smoking.

Some 2011 data from the society suggests Canadians are heeding warnings to butt out. A survey found 17 per cent of Canadians identified themselves as smokers, down from 24 per cent a decade earlier.

While higher taxes and more widespread restrictions on public smokers played a role in the decline, Cunningham credits photographic health warnings for accelerating its pace.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 15, 2012 $sourceSection0

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