A brown box showing an image like a diseased mouth with a dire warning about cancer, and only a small label for the brand, will soon be the norm for cigarettes across Canada.
Health Canada says cigarette packs will have to be plain drab brown with standardized layouts and lettering, starting in November.
Health Canada picked the same dark brown for the packages as Australia did for its tobacco products a few years ago, one identified by market researchers as the ugliest colour in the world. Several European countries have used the colour as well.
“Packages with darker colours were perceived to be more ‘harmful to health’ and their products ‘harder to quit,’ in contrast to packages with lighter colours,” the department said in a summary of the plans.
The government says the new plain packages will increase the impact of graphic health warnings about the dangers of smoking, keeping them from getting lost amid colourful designs and branding.
The regulations released Wednesday also standardize the size and appearance of cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products inside the packages – effectively eliminating extra-long or “slim” cigarettes.
Specific rules have been awaited since Parliament passed a law requiring them last fall, joining 13 other countries that have adopted similar measures.
The new rules are part of a larger strategy aimed at driving the rate of tobacco use among Canadians down to five per cent by 2035.
Federal statistics show that in 2017, 18 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 said they’d used tobacco in the previous month, an increase of 15 per cent from 2015.
The Canadian Cancer Society said that these new regulations “are the most effective tobacco plain packaging requirements in the world.”
“We strongly support the plain packaging regulations as they are essential to protect Canadian youth from tobacco companies,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society in a press release.
“Tobacco is addictive and deadly and should not be sold in packages made to be more attractive. Tobacco packaging should not function as mini-billboards promoting tobacco use.”
On the flip side, the industry association representing convenience stores said plain packaging increases the appeal of contraband tobacco products and makes them harder to distinguish from legally marketed ones.
“Instead of addressing the 20 per cent of tobacco that is sold illegally in Canada, government is adding one more burden to law-abiding retailers who don’t sell to minors, comply with display bans, and partner with government to collect and remit most of the $9 billion in tobacco tax revenue every year,” Anne Kothawala, president of the Convenience Industry Council of Canada, said in a statement.