Health Canada‘s differing requirements for “plain packaging” on cigarette and marijuana products are upsetting some interest groups who say there needs to be more of a “consistent approach” to the matter.
In a press release this week, Imperial Tobacco Canada said Health Canada’s proposed changes to how cigarettes are packaged don’t align with the requirements they recently announced for marijuana products.
“Health Canada continues to call its packaging regime for cannabis plain when it is remarkably different from what is being proposed for tobacco,” Eric Gagnon of Imperial Tobacco Canada said in the release.
But Health Canada told Global News in an email that the approaches were taken after careful evidence-based research.
“While regulations for both substances are based on evidence and on the common objective of protecting Canadians — especially youth — they are different products with different risks and require separate approaches,” the email statement read.
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The public health agency announced last week that it is considering several changes to the way cigarettes are packaged. Some proposals include removing distinctive branding and attractive features from cigarette packages, such as distinct colours, images and other brand-specific features.
The regulations would also restrict how the brand name itself is displayed, possibly making everything the same font size and typeface.
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It could also require all packages to be the “same unappealing colour,” according to a press release from the department.
Similar regulations would apply to packages of cigars and other tobacco products.
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Canadians have until Sept. 6 to offer feedback on the changes.
The government also announced “plain packaging” rules for marijuana earlier this year.
All cannabis products sold to consumers will need to be child-resistant, with plain packaging that is a single, uniform colour and does not include any graphics or images.
The packaging also cannot have any “embossed, shiny or metallic” designs on it, and the use of branding and logos is “restricted,” Health Canada stipulated.
Labels, meanwhile, will need to include mandatory health messages to warn Canadians of the potential risks of cannabis use, a red “stop sign” symbol with a cannabis leaf and the letters THC, plus the product’s THC and CBD content.
Health Canada added in its statement that cigarette packaging proposals are not necessarily more strict, they’re just different.
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“Cannabis is also subject to other restrictions that are not applicable to tobacco. These restrictions, in addition to the packaging and labelling requirements, aim to protect young Canadians,” the statement explained.
The statement also said that marijuana will be available in several different forms, and not all forms pose the same level of risk or harm.
— With files from Global News reporters Leslie Young, Monique Scotti