Canada to make plain packaging for tobacco products compulsory

This file photo released by Action on Smoking and Health (UK) in London on May 19, 2016 shows a mock-up design of a standardised cigarette pack.
This file photo released by Action on Smoking and Health (UK) in London on May 19, 2016 shows a mock-up design of a standardised cigarette pack. PHOTO: AFP

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, following the lead of Britain and Australia, will make plain packaging of cigarettes compulsory in a bid to cut the rate of smoking, Health Minister Jane Philpott said on Tuesday (May 31).

Although Canada already obliges firms to slap large graphic warning labels on cigarette packets, Philpott said more must be done, given that some 5 million of Canada's 36 million inhabitants still use tobacco products.

The measures would require a uniform, standardised color and font on packages and restrict the use of logos and trademarks.

"I don't believe tobacco companies should be allowed to build brand loyalty with children for a product that could kill them," Philpott told reporters.

A final decision on what packaging rules to apply will be announced after a three-month period of public consultations.

Earlier this month, a British court backed the government's plans for mandatory plain packaging when it struck down a legal challenge from tobacco companies.

In 2011, Australia became the first country to adopt plain packaging legislation.

Major producers of tobacco sold in Canada include Japan Tobacco's JTI-Macdonald unit, Rothmans Benson & Hedges Inc, which is partly owned by Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd, a unit of British American Tobacco.

"With products already hidden from view in stores and 75 per cent of the pack covered with health warnings, nobody starts smoking because of the pack," said Eric Gagnon, a spokesman for Imperial Tobacco.