Plain and Standardized Appearance for Tobacco Packaging and Products

Backgrounder

May 2019 

Tobacco packages, and the products they contain, are powerful promotional vehicles for the tobacco industry to communicate brand imagery and to attract new tobacco users. 

Research has shown that plain and standardized packaging reduces the appeal and attractiveness of tobacco products, especially to youth. This has been demonstrated in research conducted on both non-smokers and smokers in numerous countries, including Canada. 

Plain packaging of tobacco products is emerging across the globe, with measures implemented in six countries, namely, Australia (2012), the United Kingdom (2017), France (2017), Ireland, Norway and New Zealand (2018). Hungary, Slovenia, Uruguay and other countries have announced plans to implement plain packaging by 2020.

Studies have shown that plain packaging measures help the public better understand the health risks of tobacco use by increasing the impact of graphic health warnings that are required on packaging. Some studies indicate that health warnings were more noticeable and effective when displayed on plain packages than when displayed on branded packages.

The new plain and standardized appearance measures will begin to come into force on November 9, 2019. The measures include removing distinctive and attractive features from packaging and products and requiring all packages to be of the same drab brown colour. Only the permitted text may be displayed on the packages, in a standard location, font, colour and size. Cigarette packaging will be standardized to a slide-and-shell format, and the appearance of cigarettes and other tobacco products will be standardized as well.

The implementation of plain and standardized appearance of tobacco products is a key milestone in Canada’s Tobacco Strategy, which aims to drive down tobacco use to 5% of the Canadian population by 2035. This will mean fewer Canadians will start smoking, more Canadians will quit, and a new generation of healthier Canadians will have a greater awareness of how important it is to never use tobacco products. 

The new Tobacco Products Regulations (Plain and Standardized Appearance) and accompanying Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement can be found here: Canada Gazette, Part II.


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