Home CommentaryOpinions A new way to kick the old habit

A new way to kick the old habit

by George Menexis November 20, 2012
A new way to kick the old habit

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There’s no doubt that one of the biggest mysteries in this world is why people deliberately smoke a substance that severely deteriorates their health. Right now, it seems impossible that one day cigarettes will no longer be a cause of concern for people, because it’s still such a serious problem today.

What we can do as a society, however, is discourage smokers and potential smokers by making sure that the risks associated with smoking are made loud and clear. This is the ultimate goal of the warnings we see on all cigarette packages.

In a recent report done by the Canadian Cancer Society for cigarette package warnings, Canada has jumped from 15th for fourth place internationally. According to Health Canada, warnings on cigarette packs sold in Canada now cover 75 per cent of the front and back of the box, up from 50 per cent.

Australia ranked first in the world in terms of effectiveness of tobacco warnings. Tobacco companies are banned from using any colours, logos or design elements on the branded part of the package, and the warnings cover a little over 82.5 per cent of the pack.

“Plain packaging would curb the industry’s use of the package as a promotional vehicle, would increase the effectiveness of package warnings, would curb package deception, and would decrease tobacco use,” the authors of the Canadian Cancer Association report told CBC.

Although Canada has done well, jumping 11 spots in only two years, we need to follow Australia’s example and seriously limit tobacco companies’ right to advertise. The study did, however, applaud the country’s efforts but maintained that more still needs to be done. After all, Canada was the first country in the world to introduce graphic warnings on cigarettes boxes, and they should renew their efforts to become leaders in this particular field once again.

“We urge the federal government to take steps toward implementing plain packaging in Canada,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, to the Globe and Mail. “If Australia can do it and other countries are actively looking at it, Canada can similarly make steps to move forward.”

Now, you may be questioning if the labels really have any kind of significant influence. The general reaction of most tobacco giants to larger warnings labels are lawsuits which is proves that these warnings help deter clients from using their products. Additionally, multiple studies have shown that they are effective at making a mark.

One of the recent studies was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the U.S. National Cancer Institute Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research, and the U.S. National Institute of Health.

Published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, the study put 200 smokers in a room and showed them static, text-only cigarette warnings. Then, they were exposed to graphic warnings. The results showed that 83 per cent of participants remembered the graphic ones, as opposed to the 50 per cent who remembered the plain ones.

As of now, Health Canada has no plans of following Australia’s lead and forcing cigarettes to be plainly packaged with bigger graphic warnings. However, more needs to be done to discourage smoking — it’s something that would benefit our society as a whole, and should be seriously considered for the future.

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