Individual cigarettes to carry ‘poison in every puff’ warning

Phrases will be printed on labels on individual cigarettes
Phrases will be printed on labels on individual cigarettes

Canada will soon begin printing health warnings on individual cigarettes in a world-first, as it steps up efforts to cut smoking.

Health Canada hopes that phrases like “poison in every puff” and “cigarettes cause cancer” will make it “virtually impossible” for smokers to ignore health warnings after they are introduced on August 1 this year.

The country wants to cut smoking rates to less than five per cent by 2035, and Health Canada believes that by April 2025, retailers in Canada will only carry tobacco products with the new warning labels.

Products that will feature the new labels include individual cigarettes, cigars, tubes and other tobacco products.

Warnings are already printed on cigarette packets.

Phrases and graphic images already appear on cigarette packets in Canada - Health Canada/The Canadian Press
Phrases and graphic images already appear on cigarette packets in Canada - Health Canada/The Canadian Press

Canada has required warning labels since 1989, behind both the UK and US, who introduced the measures in 1971 and 1965.

Since then, labels have evolved to include graphic images alongside the phrases.

In a statement, Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s minister of mental health and addictions, said tobacco use kills around 48,000 Canadians every year.

“We are taking action by being the first country in the world to label individual cigarettes with health warning messages,” Ms Bennett said, adding that the change was a “bold step”.

The Canadian Cancer Society, Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Lung Association all said that they hope the measure will deter people, especially youth, from smoking.

In Canada, around 10 per cent of people aged 15 and older smoke, according to a national 2021 Tobacco and Nicotine survey. The rate of vaping is higher at around 17 per cent.

After the US became the first to introduce warnings following its Federal Cigarette Labelling and Advertising Act in 1965, the number of adult smokers in the country fell from 42 per cent in 1965 to 11 per cent today.