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Quebec takes advice from Australia on strict tobacco laws

08/19/2013 02:56 EDT | Updated 10/19/2013 05:12 EDT
The woman behind Australia’s strict tobacco laws is in Quebec City this week to advocate for plain cigarette packaging in the province.

On Tuesday, former Australian health minister Nicola Roxon will be briefing a national assembly committee, which is considering revisions to the Quebec Tobacco Act, telling members about Australia’s packaging restrictions.

Roxon says that while it’s too early to measure the long-term effect of the changes, Australia put into effect in December, she has already seen research suggesting the new packs encourage people to think about quitting more often.

Australia's new regulations mean cigarette packs are stripped of all advertising and logos and replaced with graphic health warnings.

The only differences between brands are the names and descriptions, which must all be written in the same plain font.

Roxon says some people have even reported their cigarettes tasted worse in the new packs. She hopes Quebec will take her advice and consider changing its packaging laws.

For many years, Australia followed the lead of Quebec and Canada when it came to tobacco control, but Roxon says they noticed tobacco companies were discovering loopholes.

“We saw the packs getting sexier and sexier, basically, and getting around our advertising laws by turning those packs themselves into a promotional tool,” Roxon told CBC’s Daybreak.

She said tobacco companies were becoming increasingly aggressive and targeting young audiences with colourful packaging.

“It means that a smoker, every time that they took a packet of cigarettes out of their pocket or out of their purse, were really advertising the product to their friends and colleagues,” Roxon says.

The former minister warns that tobacco companies will do everyone possible to lobby against stricter regulation, but she says it’s worth it.

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