Cigarette Labels Questioned

Canadian Health Minister Allan Rock warned that if the tobacco industry did not remove the words "light" and "mild" from their packaging, Ottawa might force them to do so.

"We know that many smokers have switched to smoking 'light' brands in the mistaken belief that such cigarettes are less harmful to their health, but the time has come to dispel the myths," Rock said in a speech.

Canadian health officials are concerned that smokers might be persuaded that cigarettes dubbed "light" and "mild" were safer, while evidence is mounting that they are just as addictive as regular cigarettes, according to Reuters.

Rock released a letter he has written to Canada's tobacco companies asking them to remove the words "light" and "mild" from their packaging. If they refuse, Ottawa would pursue action "that could include regulation or prohibition" of the tobacco products.

Canada's three main cigarette companies are British American Tobacco's Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd.; Rothmans Benson & Hedges Inc., a unit of Philip Morris International Inc. and Rothmans Inc.; and JTI-Macdonald Corp., owned by Japan Tobacco Inc.

Canada is not the first country to pursue action against the labeling of cigarette packages. In May, the European Union passed legislation that will prevent descriptions of "light" and "mild" for tobacco starting in September 2003.

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