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Canada becomes 14th country to adopt plain packaging laws

Thursday 2 May, 2019

Cancer Council Victoria and Quit Victoria have today welcomed Canada’s adoption of new national regulations for tobacco plain packaging, with Canada the 14th country in the world to pass the life-saving laws.

Canada is the latest in a string of countries to adopt plain packaging, with other countries including Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Norway, Hungary, Slovenia, Turkey, Uruguay, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Plain packaging is recommended by the World Health Organization as an effective tobacco control measure, and at least 15 other countries and territories are exploring plain packaging laws.

Todd Harper, CEO of Cancer Council Victoria, said Australia led the way as the first country to implement plain packaging laws in December 2012, which have since been proven to be a sound and well-considered public health measure that reduces the appeal of tobacco products.

“It is encouraging to see more countries adopting plain packaging legislation after the positive impact demonstrated in Australia.

“Between 2010 and 2013, during which time tobacco plain packaging came into effect, we saw smoking rates in Australia drop by 15 per cent – more than twice as large as the average drop between surveys since 1991,” Mr Harper said.

“Evaluation has found plain packaging not only reduces the appeal of tobacco products and increases the effectiveness of health warnings, but also diminishes the tobacco industry’s ability to use packs to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking[1].”

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said research shows plain packaging is associated with more persistent quitting thoughts and quit attempts.

“Every time someone looks at these dull, drab packets, it’s a powerful reminder. Plain packaging helps graphic health warnings and the Quitline number stand out, and that helps people prioritise quitting and reach out for support.”

Canada’s plain packaging regulations will be implemented on 9 November 2019 at manufacturer level and 7 February 2020 at retail level.

The regulations, which apply to all tobacco products, include provisions such as:

  • Prohibiting brand colours, graphics and logos on packages, and requiring a drab brown colour to appear as the base colour for all brands; brand names can still appear on packages, but in a standard way for all brands
  • Banning slim and superslim cigarettes, as well as stylish “purse packs” appealing to young women and girls
  • Banning cigarettes longer than 85 mm, meaning that “glamorous” 100 mm cigarettes will be banned
  • Requiring cigarette packages to be in a standardized slide and shell format, thus increasing warning size and effectiveness
  • Requiring the largest health warnings on cigarette packages in the world in terms of surface area
  • Prohibiting branding and other promotions on the cigarette itself, and requiring cigarettes to have a flat end without holes or recesses

[1] Wakefield M, Coomber K, Zacher M, et al, Australian adult smokers’ responses to plain packaging with larger graphic health warnings 1 year after implementation: results from a national cross-sectional tracking survey, Tobacco Control 2015;24:ii17-ii25