HEALTH

Warning smokers

Messages on packs will be more visible

D’ARCY JENISH February 5 1990
HEALTH

Warning smokers

Messages on packs will be more visible

D’ARCY JENISH February 5 1990

Warning smokers

HEALTH

Messages on packs will be more visible

For a couple of weeks last November, Kelly Conway felt uneasy every time she lit a cigarette. What troubled her were the larger and more explicit warnings about the health hazards of smoking, which had begun appearing on cigarette packages. The Toronto woman, an administrative officer with the Toronto-Dominion Bank, said that she has now learned to ignore the mes-

sages and continues her pack-a-day smoking habit. As a result, Conway said that she is skeptical about the potential effectiveness of larger and more detailed health warnings, which federal Minister of Health Perrin Beatty announced last week. “It’s not going to bother me,” she said. “I’m still going to smoke.” Still, officials of health organizations and antismoking groups greeted Beatty’s proposals with jubilation. Garfield Mahood, executive director of the Toronto-based Non-Smokers’

Rights Association, said that the messages would put Canada ahead of every other Western country in terms of warning its citizens of the dangers of cigarette smoke. For their part, tobacco industry spokesmen reacted angrily to Beatty’s announcement. Linda Morris, communications manager with the Ottawa-based Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council, said, “From our point of view, it amounts to economic and administrative harassment.”

Beatty’s announcement was the latest step in a series of federal actions that have gradually toughened the warnings against smoking that appear on cigarette packages and cigarette-tobacco containers. Since last Oct. 31, federal rules have required that every cigarette package carry one of four messages related to smoking and life expectancy, lung cancer, heart disease and pregnancy. Now, Beatty says that Ottawa intends to increase the number of warnings carried on cigarette packs to eight, including one that says tobacco is addictive. He said that, effective June 1, 1991, he wants the warnings to appear at the top of each pack and to occupy 25 per cent of the front and back panels. As £ well, the labels will be in black g and white.

Antismoking activists argue that Beatty’s new proposals are necessary. Mahood said that even though the number of Canadian cigarette smokers has fallen to ä about five million, from an estimated 7.2 million in 1980, consumers are entitled to the information required to make informed choices. “Tobacco is the only legal product on the market which kills people when used exactly as the manufacturers intend,” said Mahood. “They have a moral obligation to give better warnings than the four that appear now.” As a result, some opponents of smoking predict that tobacco users will be fully aware of the potential consequences every time they light up.

D’ARCY JENISH