Canada's world ranking for cigarette package warnings rose to fourth in 2012 from 15th in 2010 after new Canadian warnings covering 75 per cent of cigarette packages were implemented, an international report finds.

The Canadian Cancer Society publishes a report every two years ranking cigarette health warnings. The latest report was released Wednesday at the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control conference in Seoul, South Korea.

Last year, Health Canada announced it would renew health-related labels on tobacco products, including cigarettes. Canada's warning labels now cover 75 per cent of the front and 75 per cent of the back of cigarette packages.

Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, commended Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq for the new warnings, but also urged the federal government to follow Australia’s lead in implementing plain packaging.

Australia, which received the top ranking, has the largest warnings, covering 82.5 per cent of the package front and back of packages (75 per cent front, 90 per cent back), the group said. Australia also prohibits tobacco company colours, logo and design elements on the branded part of the package.


Cigarette warning labels in Australia can't show tobacco company colours. (Canadian Cancer Society)

"Plain packaging would curb the industry's use of the package as a promotional vehicle, would increase the effectiveness of package warnings, would curb package deception, and would decrease tobacco use," the report's authors said.

Cigarette makers challenged the Australian rules on the grounds that they violate intellectual property rights and devalued their trademarks. The country's highest court upheld the law in August.

After the Australian ruling, Health Canada said it is watching what effect the plain packaging legislation has in Australia, and didn't rule out recommending similar regulations.

The other top-ranked countries for warning sizes in the report were:

  • Uruguay tied for second with Sri Lanka at 80 per cent (80 per cent of front, 80 per cent of back),
  • Brunei tied with Canada for fourth at 75 per cent (75 per cent of front, 75 per cent back).

Another review published Wednesday by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that sending smokers text or video messages for at least six months can help people to quit.

The text messages provided motivation, support and tips for quitting.

Smartphone apps weren't included in the review.