A sweeping piece of anti-tobacco legislation was passed by the Canadian Parliament today, and with it could soon come the requirement that all tobacco products come in plain packaging.
Known as S-5, the bill effectively clears the way for Health Canada, the government agency responsible for public health, to call for and implement plain packaging of all tobacco and e-cigarette products, including premium cigars.
While the bill does not explicitly outline what plain packaged tobacco products must look like, it is expected that logos and promotional wording will be prohibited, while font style and size as well as coloring will be uniformly implemented. Health Canada has already expressed that it will seek packaging similar to that which has been implemented in Australia, which enacted plain packaging requirements in 2012.
It also bans the sale of vaping products to minors, limits advertising for tobacco and tobacco alternatives, bans certain flavorings from being used in such products, and brings the regulation of e-cigarettes and other such products in line with traditional tobacco products, something many health officials have called for in recent years as that product category has grown rapidly and without much regulation. The goal of the bill is to restrict youth access to such products, while ensuring that adults have access to more strictly regulated products, as the bill seems to acknowledge that they can be successfully used as a tobacco cessation device. However, the bill also prohibits promotion of such products by including health benefits or any type of endorsement or testimonial.
A timetable for the new regulations has not yet been announced, but the CBC reports that a spokesperson for Health Canada indicated that it would likely be about six months after they have been finalized by the department. At least one company, Imperial Tobacco Canada, has gone on record as saying they are considering legal challenges to the regulations.
Emails to Havana House, the distributor of Habanos S.A. products, as well as the general manager of the La Casa del Habano franchise in Montreal have not yet been returned.
A number of other countries have also enacted plain packaging requirements, including Ireland and the United Kingdom, though premium cigars were exempted from the latter’s requirement. Norway, Slovenia and New Zealand have also expressed support for plain packaging.
The legislation now must get royal assent in order to become law, a process in which the governor general or a deputy, such as a Justice of the Supreme Court, formally approves an act of Parliament.
Update (May 23, 2018) — The bill received royal assent today.