Canada became the first country to implement picture-based health warnings on cigarette packages when they initiated the use of warnings in June 2001. Between 2001-2012, a set of 16 health warnings were rotated on packages. The cigarette packages were required to have a health warning cover 50% of the front and 50% of the back of the package (one side in English and the other side in French, the two official Canadian languages). In addition to health warnings on the outside of packages, 1 of 16 rotated messages were required to appear on the inside of each cigarette package, either on the slide or on an insert.
Canada also required tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and benzene emission numbers to appear on the side of packages. Two numbers appeared from each emission: one from the ISO and one from the Health Canada machine smoking method.
In September 2011, Health Canada released a full set of 16 new exterior warnings, 8 interior messages, and 4 toxic emission messages for the side panel (shown below). The new health warning messages are required to cover 75% of the front and back of cigarette and little cigar packages. As of March 21, 2012, manufacturers and importers of cigarettes and/or cigars were prohibited from distributing products that did not display the new health warnings. Retailers are given 3 months to transition from the existing packages to those displaying the new messages. Effective June 19, 2012, retailers will only be allowed to sell packages displaying the new health warnings.
Canada prohibits the terms “light” and “mild” from appearing on packages.