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Australia takes bold anti-smoking step: Will it deter smokers?

Australia is taking a bold new step in an attempt to get people to quit smoking by adopting tough new limits for cigarette packages.

Under the new law, Australia will have the most aggressive laws for cigarette packages in the world, banning companies from using brand colours or logos to advertise their products. The labels will also feature graphic and large images, as well as a message about the dangers of smoking and the importance of quitting.

Although many tobacco companies have already vowed to challenge the decision, the Australian government says it is committed to the new measures.

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But the move also raises important questions for countries such as Canada, which was once considered a leader in tough anti-smoking cigarette labelling. Now that Australia will strip cigarette packages of colours and logos and make health warnings the focal point of the label, are other countries obligated to follow suit?

Canada was actually the first country in the world to adopt health warnings with images on cigarette packages. But the federal government came under harsh criticism last year when it seemed to bow to industry pressure and shelve plans for stronger, updated warnings.

Plans for stronger cigarette warnings eventually went ahead after extensive media coverage of the issue.

But many tobacco control advocates in Canada and around the world question why more countries haven't adopted similar measures. Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, an advocacy group, has established a website with numerous studies demonstrating the effectiveness of plain cigarette labels.

Some critics suggest the industry's influence is what's stopping stronger tobacco labelling laws from being put in place. In fact, the future of cigarette warning labels in the U.S. is now in question after a federal judge blocked new regulations that would require manufacturers to introduce even stronger warnings.

Are cigarette warning labels an effective deterrent from smoking? Do we need even stronger warning labels?

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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