While Canada’s plain tobacco packaging laws substantially reduced pack appeal, they have not made smokers take greater notice of the pictorial health warnings, according to a new report published by the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITCPEP).
Canada introduced plain packaging in 2019 as part of a comprehensive suite of policies to help reduce tobacco use to 5 percent by 2035.
The regulations apply to packaging for all tobacco products, including manufactured cigarettes, roll-your-own products, cigars, pipe tobacco, smokeless tobacco and heated-tobacco products.
Vapor products are not covered under these regulations because they are not classified as tobacco products under the Canada’s Tobacco and Vaping Products Act.
In 2001, Canada became the first country to require graphic health warnings on cigarette packs. The images are periodically refreshed. The most recent switch of pictures took place eight years ago.
The ITCPEP survey showed that the share of smokers who did not like the look of their cigarette pack after the implementation of plain packaging in Canada increased from 29 percent in 2018 to 45 percent in 2020.
However, there was no significant change in the percentage of smokers who said they usually notice warning labels first when looking at a cigarette pack (35 percent in 2018 versus 36 percent in 2020).
Based on their findings, the report’s authors recommend refreshing Canada’s eight-year-old pictorial health warnings to address wear-out of health warning salience and effectiveness
As of July 2020, plain packaging has been fully implemented in 14 countries: Australia (2012); France and the United Kingdom (2017); New Zealand, Norway and Ireland (2018); Uruguay and Thailand (2019); Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Slovenia (January 2020); Canada (February 2020); and Singapore (July 2020).
By January 2022, Belgium, Hungary and the Netherlands will have fully implemented plain packaging.