Ireland’s decision last week to adopt plain packaging legislation for tobacco products has prompted renewed calls for Canada to follow suit.
Tobacco control policy researcher David Hammond, an associate professor in the school of public health and health systems at the University of Waterloo, says Canada must also legislate plain packaging if deaths from smoking are to be curbed.
Hammond says tobacco companies are targeting youth—particularly young women—with their packing designs.
“These female-branded packages use feminine colour schemes and feature descriptions such as superslim, slims, and flavour to attract young women—with dangerous success,” Hammond says.
Citing studies in scientific journals, Hammond notes that female-branded packs are seen as being associated with “glamour, slimness, and attractiveness,” while plain packs are seen as the least appealing and worst tasting.
“Marketing in the form of pack branding remains a potent tool for increasing the appeal of tobacco products to young women. Research shows that packaging designed to appeal to young women directly impacts their beliefs and attitudes about cigarettes,” Hammond said.
He added that young women are significantly less likely to accept a cigarette pack when offered a plain pack compared to a female-branded pack.
Ireland is expected to enforce the new legislation mandating plain packaging early next year, making it the second country in the world to adopt this measure.
Last year, Australia adopted a new law requiring tobacco product packages to be a drab olive green colour with graphic health warnings, without any logos or branding.
Hammond served as an expert advisor to the Australian government in the drafting of this law.
Canada is not currently planning any regulation regarding plain packaging for tobacco products, a Health Canada spokesperson confirmed via email.
However, “Health Canada continues to review available research on plain packaging as a form of tobacco control and closely monitors plain packaging proposals put forward in other countries,” said Sara Lauer.
Canada enforced new legislation last year requiring new health warning messages on cigarette and little cigar packages. The new warning messages cover 75 percent of the packaging and focus on diseases associated with tobacco use and the stories of those whose health has been affected by tobacco use.