Anti-tobacco activist to be shown on Canada's new cigarette labels
Before she died at the age of 42 from lung cancer, Barb Tarbox was an anti-tobacco activist. Now, under the federal government has decided to display larger and more graphic warning labels on cigarette packages in an effort to get more Canadians to stop the habit, and images of Tarbox in the final stages of lung cancer will be included.
The new images will cover 75 per cent of cigarette packaging, which is an increase from the current 50 per cent standard.
The plan includes featuring a variety of captions and pictures of Canadians who have been harmed by smoking, including Tarbox, who died of cancer in 2003.
"I think she knew what it was going to look like when she died and she wanted people to see that," said Edmonton Journal photographer Greg Southam who documented the last seven months of Tarbox's life.
"She had asked me to capture the ugliest possible images of her that I could," he said.
During a Thursday morning news conference, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the warnings will appear on cigarette packaging as soon as possible. The government also says the warnings will be changed frequently to drive the message home to smokers.
"Using a testimonial from her [Tarbox] tragic story will make people stop and think about the dangers of tobacco use. Canadian and international research has shown that to be effective health warning on tobacco packages must be noticeable and memorable," said Aglukkaq.
Tarbox's husband, Pat Tarbox, says this is exactly what she would have wanted.
"I think she would be really happy because she wanted to do so much, so her knowing that she could still do some good from the grave, she'd be very, very pleased."
It's been eight years since Southam took the very picture of Tarbox that will soon be included on cigarette packages. He now says the pain he felt when he first took the photo has now turned into pride.
"I still have a feeling every time I look at that picture... a feeling of sadness, but now when I look at it, I have a feeling of being satisfied, satisfied that I fulfilled my promise to Barb."
The health minister stressed the government is committed to helping Canadians kick the habit, which kills an estimated 37,000 people in Canada each year.
But big tobacco companies are slamming the government's decision and claim the plan will have little effect on smokers who are aware of the health risks.
"To take another 25 per cent of the pack is just abusive by the government," said Eric Gagnon with Imperial Tobacco.
Meanwhile, anti-smoking groups couldn't be more pleased with the action.
"A package may come out of a pocket or purse 20 times. You cannot beat the reach of warnings, it's incredible," said Bill Cunningham with the Canadian Cancer Society.
The government also plans to introduce a toll-free hotline and website that smokers can access to get information on how to quit.
With files from Sonia Sunger and CTV.ca News Staff