Canadian Cancer Society supports stronger federal tobacco control strategy including plain packaging to combat tobacco epidemic

14 January 2016

Toronto -

On the eve of National Non-Smoking Week (January 17–23), the Canadian Cancer Society is highlighting the need for Health Canada’s tobacco control strategy to be enhanced by modernized legislation, better funding and plain packaging regulations.

“We applaud the Canadian Government’s election commitment to strengthen the federal tobacco control strategy, including adoption of plain packaging,” says Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society. “It is essential that renewed emphasis be placed on combatting the tobacco epidemic.”

“Modernizing federal tobacco legislation that is almost 2 decades old would protect our kids and reduce addiction, disease and death,” says Cunningham. “In 1997, when the current Tobacco Act was adopted, there were not the flavoured products now available nor were there electronic cigarettes, water pipe smoking or types of tobacco industry promotional tactics now being used. It’s a different era and federal legislation needs to reflect that.”

“Increased funding would allow for better and sustained Health Canada initiatives, including for youth prevention and adult cessation,” adds Cunningham. Currently, Health Canada’s tobacco control budget represents only C$1.06 per capita, much lower than the C$2.67 per capita (US$2.09) tobacco control budget of the US federal government.

The November 13, 2015, mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Minister of Health Jane Philpott included plain packaging as a “top priority.”

Plain packaging would prohibit brand colours, logos and graphics on tobacco packages, thus eliminating packages as mini-billboards that promote tobacco, says Cunningham.

With plain packaging, health warnings and pictures would still appear on packages, but the branded part of the package would be a standard colour for all brands, such as the brown required in Australia. Package dimensions would be standardized, thus eliminating slim and superslim packs targeting women.

Plain packaging is gaining tremendous international momentum. In addition to Australia, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom, which have adopted the measure, plain packaging is also under formal consideration in Norway, Hungary, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore, Turkey and South Africa. An international overview can be seen here.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada, including about 30% of all cancer deaths. Smoking kills 37,000 Canadians every year. The 2014 Canadian Community Health Survey found that 18% of Canadians (5 million people) are smokers.

About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, the Society has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. For more information, visit cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934). 

For more information, please contact:

Rob Cunningham
Senior Policy Analyst
Canadian Cancer Society
National office
613-565-2522 ext. 4981