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OTTAWA, Ontario -- Graphic cigarette warning labels may be on hold in the United States but cigarette packages in Canada have featured the health warnings since last fall and they may not be having the intended effect, according to a new survey commissioned by Health Canada.
According to the National Post, Health Canada commissioned Environics Research Group to do a baseline survey of smokers this past March. The project surveyed 1,505 Canadian adult smokers. The survey found that smokers overwhelmingly recognize smoking is a major problem; however, fewer than half of respondents consider the warning labels effective at changing their overall smoking habit.
Specifically, nearly nine in 10 said they have seen, heard or read about the earlier health warning messages. One in three said they look at the warning messages at least once a day. Most smokers participating in the survey said warning messages provide accurate, important information about the health effects of smoking. The images they recall tend to be the most graphic, according to the report.
But if the graphic warnings are meant to dissuade adult smokers from lighting up, they may be missing the target -- with one in three survey respondents indicating the warnings have been effective in getting them to smoke less. About four in 10 said the messages have increased their desire to quit smoking or made them try to quit.
Retailers in Canada had until June 19 to ensure that all cigarette packaging in their stores featured the new warnings. Similar warnings were set to be go into effect in the United States this September; however, several tobacco companies have been fighting the efforts in the legal arena. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled the nine warnings in June 2011 with a Sept. 22, 2012 implementation fate. However, in August 2011 several tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard Inc., Commonwealth Brands Inc. and Liggett Group LLC, filed a lawsuit to block the mandate on First Amendment grounds.
Rulings to date have appeared to come down on the side of the tobacco companies but the FDA is not giving up. The matter is widely expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, as CSNews Online as previously reported.