New cigarette packages with graphic warning labels — including an image of a dying smoker —  are hitting store shelves.

Under federal rules introduced in September, health warning messages must cover 75 per cent of the covers of all cigarette and cigarillo packages — both front and back.

The new images are meant to be informative and disturbing, and encourage smokers to give up their habit.

One of the 16 new labels shows an emaciated Barb Tarbox, the 42-year-old anti-smoking activist who died of lung cancer. Another shows a tongue covered in white cancerous sores.

"I don't even look at them. I just buy the cigarettes," said Phil Morrison, a longtime smoker in Halifax.

"I've been smoking for about 30 years," said Ali Roshani. "I'm not going to stop it now."

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer, suggests Canada follow Australia's lead.

"They have now implemented plain packaging where there's just no ability for the tobacco industry to advertise at all," he said.

Graphic images on tobacco products first appeared in Canada in 2000. At the time, they covered half the package.

Retailers started selling the packages with the new health warnings last month. They must stop selling their old inventory by June 19.