TORONTO (CP) — Ottawa wants to ban cigarette companies from using the words ''light'' and ''mild'' on their products, Health Minister Tony Clement said in a statement Friday.
''Research has shown that many smokers incorrectly believe that smoking 'light and mild' cigarettes is less harmful to their health,'' he said.
''These proposed regulations would put in place a mandatory — and permanent — ban on these deceptive terms.''
The ban would stop all tobacco manufacturers — including importers — from using the words on the packaging of cigarettes and other tobacco products sold in Canada.
''Smoking any variety of cigarette poses a health risk,'' Clement said, adding the proposed regulations are ''an important step to help protect Canadians from misleading information regarding their health and safety.''
Clement said more than half of all current smokers say they smoke products labeled ''light,'' ''mild,'' or ''ultralight.''
He said those words prevent some smokers from quitting because they don't think the light or mild cigarettes are as harmful as others.
A 75-day comment period is in effect for the proposed regulations.
Similar rules have been imposed in Europe and Australia, though the United States has yet to follow suit.
Three of Canada's biggest tobacco companies agreed to change their labeling practices last fall ahead of the new federal rules. In 2001, then health minister Allan Rock unsuccessfully asked the companies to voluntarily make those changes.
Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada said in a statement July 31 — the day the companies' changes took effect — that the voluntary labeling doesn't go far enough. The group said cigarette makers are still free to use other marketing techniques to convey differences in strength.
''As predicted, the companies have not ended the deception,'' said Atul Kapur, the anti-smoking group's president.
''The tobacco companies have merely replaced the words 'light' and 'mild' with other marketing terms.''
For instance, the group said some tobacco products can have lighter-colored or white packaging to signal they're weaker than others. Another way to dodge the ban would be to make a distinction between products by placing the ''weaker'' ones above or below the regular one in store displays.
''The creative ability of the manufacturers to send positive messages about a product widely known to be noxious is impressive,'' said Kapur.