Proposed Tobacco Product Packaging and Labelling Regulations
Tobacco use in Canada
Tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of illness and premature death in Canada, killing approximately 48,000 Canadians each year.
Smoking is linked to more than 40 diseases and conditions, including cancer and heart disease. Many of these health effects can be reversed or reduced after a person quits smoking.
Tobacco products contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance responsible for tobacco dependence. Young persons are particularly susceptible to the risk of dependence and report symptoms of dependence even at low levels of cigarette use.
The health and economic costs associated with tobacco use in Canada were estimated at $12.3 billion in 2017, with direct health care costs of $6.1 billion. While tobacco prevalence in Canada is at 13%, the health care costs associated with tobacco use represent 47% of all health care costs associated with substance use in Canada.
Canada's Tobacco Strategy aims to reach less than 5% tobacco use by 2035.
The evolution of tobacco product packaging and labelling in Canada
Health-related messages on tobacco product packaging continue to be recognized as one of the best approaches to informing Canadians of the health hazards of tobacco use.
Canada first adopted pictorial warning requirements for tobacco product packages in 2000 under the Tobacco Product Information Regulations to increase awareness of the health hazards and health effects associated with tobacco use. The labels combine strong images with messages that are noticeable, informative and credible.
The 2011 Tobacco Products Labelling Regulations (Cigarettes and Little Cigars) introduced strengthened labelling requirements for cigarettes and little cigar packages. The requirements include:
- pictorial health warnings that cover 75% of the front and back of packages and include a pan-Canadian quitline number and web address;
- health information messages enhanced with colour and images; and
- easy to understand toxic emissions and toxic constituents statements.
The Tobacco Products Regulations (Plain and Standardized Appearance) were adopted in 2019. These regulations standardize the appearance of tobacco packages and products through general requirements applicable to all tobacco products, as well as through specific requirements applicable to individual tobacco product types. For instance, all tobacco product packages have to be of the same drab brown colour, bearing only the permitted text displayed in a standard location, font style, colour and size.
Each of these regulations are in accordance with the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, which regulates the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products, as well as vaping products.
Proposal to strengthen regulations for tobacco products labelling including renewed health warnings
Despite the positive impact of current tobacco product labelling regulations, updates are required to help maintain the messages' effectiveness at raising public awareness about smoking-related health hazards and ensure that they reflect the latest research and science available.
Moreover, existing tobacco labelling requirements do not capture all tobacco products currently available on the Canadian market. This could lead Canadians to believe that products without health-related messages on the packaging are less harmful than those with messaging. Adding to the risk is that new tobacco products that may enter the market in the future are not captured under existing tobacco labelling regulations.
As such, on June 11 2022, Health Canada will publish the proposed Regulations Amending the Tobacco Products Regulations (Plain and Standardized Appearance) and proposed Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act in the Canada Gazette Part I (CGI) for a 75-day consultation period.
The proposed regulations would build on existing regulatory requirements by introducing the following measures:
- Renewed health-related messages (health warnings, health information messages and toxicity information statements).
- Health warning and toxicity information requirements extended to all tobacco product packaging.
- A minimum size of 75% of the main panels of the packaging for health warnings for all tobacco products.
- A new location for the health information messages on cigarette packages to make these messages more noticeable.
- A health warning printed on individual cigarettes, little cigars that have a filter, and tubes to inform users, in particular young persons who may not be exposed to the packaging, of the health hazards of tobacco use.
- A rotation scheme that aims to enhance the novelty and relevance of the messages on tobacco products and packages by rotating sets of messages on a pre-determined schedule.
- The ability to update the content of health-related messages (such as images or text) to reflect the most up to date science and research available without updating the regulations.
The proposed regulations would bring Canada into full compliance with its labelling obligations under Article 11 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Feedback from the consultation will inform the development of the final regulations.
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