Graphic Warnings cigarette packs: Canada revising warnings, U.S. pictorial warnings within 4-years..

September 3, 2009 In 2001 Canada became the first country to introduce pictorial warnings warnings on tobacco packages. Now approximately nine years later Health Canada is in the process of revising these health warnings.

Health Canada is now testing 49 new health warnings for possible placement on cigarette packages, including two with photographs of an emaciated Barb Tarbox on her deathbed. Six years after her death from cancer attributed to tobacco smoking, anti-smoking activist Barb Tarbox is closer to realizing her ultimate goal, warning millions of smokers about the chilling and possibly fatal implications of their addictions.

Click on image to enlarge..

Health Canada is considering ordering cigarette companies to put deathbed photos of an emaciated cancer victim on every package. Health Canada first used Tarbox in antismoking public service messages that aired in movie theatres.

In February 2008, Decima Research conducted 60 focus groups with adults smokers in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal. Of the seven new warnings that received the highest possible mark for impact and effectiveness from the groups, two had Tarbox on them. One warning showed Tarbox with the title "Dead at 42" and the caption, "Barb Tarbox died of lung cancer from smoking." The warning also quoted Tarbox, saying, "When you die, you leave behind so much pain for the people that continue living. It hurts me so much to think of the pain I'll cause to my daughter."

The Tarbox warnings are part of an attempt to include testimonials or true stories about the health impacts of smoking on cigarette packages. There is no set timetable for when the new warnings will appear on packages. The warning also quoted Tarbox, saying, "When you die, you leave behind so much pain for the people that continue living. It hurts me so much to think of the pain I'll cause to my daughter."

Christelle Legault, media relations officer for Health Canada: "No decision has yet been made on which testimonials, images, or health information will appear on cigarette packages. Health Canada is committed to building on the success of the current labeling requirements to continue to improve their potential to influence behavior change among tobacco users."

Health Canada cigarette warning labels are a model for other countries.

In the United States, the authority to force packaging changes was granted on June 22, when President Barack Obama, who has struggled with cigarette addiction since he was a teen, signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The landmark legislation gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration broad new authority to regulate the marketing of tobacco products.

Under the law, the FDA has two years to issue specifics about the new graphic warnings tobacco products will be required to carry. Tobacco companies then have 18 months to get them onto packages.

Currently, the United States has some of the weakest requirements for cigarette package warnings in the world, said David Hammond, an assistant professor in the department of health studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. The text-only warnings on packages have changed little since 1984.

The more frightening the image, the greater the anti-smoking effect, says Dr. Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and director of the university's Center for Tobacco Control, Research and Education.

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada: Warnings Countries and Laws; Warnings-Europe.

The impact of pictures on the effectiveness of tobacco warnings..

Reference: Smokers recoil at deathbed photos
Even from the grave, Tarbox 'still doing some good'
David Staples, Edmonton Journal, 9/1/2009; Stunning New Warnings Headed for Cigarette Packs, Jennifer Thomas, HealthDay,, 8/27/2009.