Canadians Welcome New Graphic Warnings on Cigarette Packages

Canadians are highly supportive of the inclusion of health warnings on tobacco products, and a majority of respondents believe that the graphic images that were recently unveiled are acceptable, a new Vision Critical / Angus Reid poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample of 1,022 Canadian adults, four-in-five respondents (82%) support the use of health warnings that feature information on diseases caused by tobacco and tips on how to quit.

Last month, Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced that these health warnings—which have been used in Canada since 2000—would now occupy 75 per cent of the packaging, and include more graphic images and messaging.

Respondents to this Angus Reid / Vision Critical survey were shown four of the images that are expected to be featured in cigarette packages sold in Canada, including the controversial picture of Barb Tarbox—who died at 42 of lung cancer—under the caption: “This is what dying of cancer looks like.”

A majority of Canadians (60%) believe the images are about right, while one-in-four (24%) would have preferred more graphic imagery, and only 12 per cent think the images are too graphic.

Canadians are divided on the overall effectiveness of the images to convince smokers to quit, with 48 per cent predicting that the labels will be “very effective” or “moderately effective”, and 45 per cent saying they would be “moderately ineffective” or “very ineffective.”


A large proportion of Canadians continue to endorse the inclusion of graphic warnings in tobacco products. Support for this practice is remarkably high across the country and in all gender and age groups.

After seeing the new batch of images, only about one-in-eight Canadians felt that the content was too graphic. Three-in-five believe the right balance has been struck, while one-in-four would have actually chosen more graphic content.

While a majority of frequent smokers appear to be undeterred by the images, Canadians who light up occasionally or rarely are practically split in the level of effectiveness that the images will have on people who are considering to quit.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Methodology: From January 4 to January 5, 2011, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 1,022 Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

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