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Canada: Plain-Packaged Cigarettes Have Hit Shelves on November 9th

Health Canada’s plain packaging regulations for cigarettes have gone into effect on the 9th of November, following which retailers now have a 90-day window to sell any remaining stock in regular packaging.

As per the new regulation, all cigarette packets will now feature the same brown base colour, grey text and plain layout. The measure also dictates the size and appearance of cigarettes, cigars and other products inside the packages.

These rules are part of the federal government’s strategy to reduce tobacco use among Canadians to less than 5% of the population by 2035. “It’s a very significant public health measure and it’s going to make a difference,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society.

During a consultation process launched in November 2018, the federal government had also explored the idea of placing warnings on individual cigarettes. Such warnings would read “smoking causes cancer” or similar wording.

“There is recent but limited research showing that health warnings placed directly on a product, such as cigarettes, could be effective in making the product less appealing to users,” read a government consultation document released last year. Cunningham had endorsed the proposal. “It’s an incredibly cost-effective way to reach every smoker every day with the health message,” he said at the time.

With regards to the implemented measure, Cunningham has now said that Canada’s plain-packaging regulations are “the best in the world.” He also pointed out that the country is leading the charge in eliminating extra-long and “slim” cigarettes, which tend to be marketed toward women.

Additionally in 2021, cigarette packets will come with a wider surface area that will display the largest health warnings in the world. “This measure is going to have an important difference, especially over time,” said Cunningham. “We will have kids who will grow up not exposed to branded packages.”

Latest research about plain packaging

Meanwhile, a report in the British Medical Journal’s BMJ Open publication, has pointed out that the world’s major tobacco companies have adopted subtle techniques, to bypass plain packaging regulations and make their packets more recognizable.

Written by academics at the University of Bath, the report is drawing attention to the fact that the world’s major tobacco companies have adopted subtle marketing techniques in order to replace traditional cigarette branding, which in 2016 was banned across the UK. One of the MPs who had devised the plain packaging legislation, is urging ministers to review the measure in order to eliminate loopholes as detailed in the report.

Big tobacco found covert ways to make their products distinctive

PMI redesigned its premium Marlboro range, adding bevelled edges and a new “pro-seal” closing mechanism to packets., to make the packs look more premium. The researchers found that ahead of the one-year “sell-through” period, tobacco companies increased the production of cigarettes in order to have more stock of the branded packs. In the meantime, the manufacturers came up with innovative ways to somehow still make their plain packets distinctive.

Philip Morris International (PMI) redesigned its premium Marlboro range, adding bevelled edges and a new “pro-seal” closing mechanism to packets, the researchers found. This made their packs “appear more premium and recognizable compared to other brands,” said the researchers. The report added that previous studies had suggested that such differentiating features “perpetuate the perceptions that some tobacco brand variants are less harmful than others.”

This article originally appeared at the Vaping Post website


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