The Canadian Health Minister, Jane Philpott, announced today that the Canadian government is planning to pursue a requirement that all tobacco products sold in the country come in plain, standardized packaging.
The move comes as part of a plan to reduce tobacco use amongst Canadian youth, particularly cigarettes and other cheaply priced tobacco products. “I don’t believe tobacco companies should be allowed to build brand loyalty with children, for a product that could kill them,” Philpott said. “Research shows that plain packaging of tobacco products is an effective way to deter people from starting to smoke and will bolster our efforts to reduce tobacco use in Canada. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Canada, and we are committed to fighting this issue from all sides.”
While the announcement comes on World No Tobacco Day, an initiative launched by the World Health Organization in an attempt to reduce global tobacco use, the movement has been in the works for some time. On Nov. 13, 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote a mandate letter to Philpott, calling plain packaging a top priority. Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a period of public consultations that will last through August 31, with Canadian citizens encouraged to participate and share their views on potential plain packaging elements by completing an online questionnaire or submitting them by regular mail or email. The information gathered during the consultation process will be considered in the development of new regulations for these products, which seek to mandate a standardized box size and prohibiting the use of identifying colors, logos and graphics on packaging.
“It is essential to provide protection from tobacco industry marketing tactics, especially for children,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society in a press release. “A growing number of other countries are requiring plain packaging, which will make it easier for Canada to do so. The international trend is very positive.”
The move has already drawn opposition from the tobacco industry, which is expected to launch a formal campaign against the proposal once the final details are unveiled.
Plain packaging has become a growing movement in first-world countries in recent years, with Australia enacting the requirement in 2012. Several tobacco producing countries, led by the Dominican Republic, filed a grievance with the World Trade Organization and won a preliminary ruling in November 2015. Cuba, Honduras, Indonesia and Ukraine joined the Dominican Republic in objecting to Australia’s plain packaging law.
Since Australia became the first country to pass such a requirement, has also jumped on board, as have France, Ireland and the United Kingdom, although cigars were given a reprieve from the requirement in the latter. Ireland’s proposal was met with a nine-country objection in September 2014, as Italy, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain all voiced opposition to the proposal.
Norway has also voiced its support of countries’ rights to require plain packaging and is currently considering implementing the requirement. Hungary, Slovenia, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa are also holding formal talks regarding the requirement.