Washington Post Examines ‘Graphic’ Images on Cigarette Packs in Canada
The Washington Post on Sunday examined the warning images that began appearing on packs of cigarettes in Canada 20 months ago. At least one of the 16 government-approved images, part of Canada's $320 million, five-year smoking education and prevention campaign, must appear on every pack. The pictures include a man in a hospital bed breathing with the help of a ventilator; the inside of a human mouth with "yellowing, nicotine-stained teeth"; the message "Don't Poison Us" written next to a picture of two young boys; and lungs "blackened" with cancer. The Canadian government expects to defend the images against legal challenges for "years." A court in Montreal last month heard closing arguments on a lawsuit filed by tobacco companies that claims the government is "infring[ing] on their rights of free expression." According to Simon Potter, lead counsel for the tobacco companies involved in the suit, the Canadian tobacco industry is "quite happy" to include written warnings, but the pictures "take up too much space and are 'unjustifiable,'" the Post reports.
According to anti-smoking advocates, the images have helped reduce the number of Canadians who smoke. The Post reports that an estimated 600,000 Canadians quit smoking in 2001, and a March survey of 2,014 residents by the Canadian Cancer Society fond that 76% of Canadians support the images, while 59% of smokers say the images are "a good idea." An earlier study found that 43% of smokers said the images "made them more concerned" about the health effects of smoking, and 44% of smokers said the images increased their desire to quit. The Post reports that the success of the images has "caught the attention" of legislators in the United States. Rep. James Hansen (R-Utah) has co-introduced legislation that would require similar images placed on each pack sold in America. However, Hansen said the legislation is on the "deep back burner" (Pretorius, Washington Post, 10/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.