Letter in support of Health Canada’s plain and standardized tobacco packaging initiative

Hon. Jane Philpott, Minister of Health
Health Canada
70 Colombine Driveway, Tunney’s Pasture
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9

December 20th, 2016

Dear Minister,

I recently met with representatives of the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco (CCAT) concerning Health Canada’s plain and standardized tobacco packaging initiative. I am writing to express my support for their recommendations. Tobacco use remains the number one public health threat in Canada, with 37,000 Canadians dying every year due to tobacco-related diseases. Additionally, while most other forms of promotion are banned in Canada, packaging remains the tobacco industry’s most important promotional vehicle.

As a critical component of the plain and standardized packaging reform, CCAT recommends that the measures apply to all tobacco packaging and products. Tobacco companies exploit all aspects of the package, including colour schemes, slogans, fonts, inks, and logos, to make their products appealing. Some packages, such as super-slim cigarette packs, are specifically designed to attract women, while other forms, such as smokeless tobacco, target youth. A product that kills half of its long-term users should not be allowed to be sold in pretty packages that intentionally mislead consumers.

Slide-and-shell packages should be the only mandated format for cigarette packages. Health warnings are significantly larger on the slide-and-shell packs than on the flip-tops, and the graphic image remains visible when the pack is opened. Many studies indicate that larger warnings are more effective in encouraging smokers to attempt quitting and keeping youth from starting. Furthermore, the interior health message on the slide-and-shell is a permanent fixture of the package, in contrast to the disposable insert in the flip-top packs. It is worth noting that slide-and-shell has been the traditional package format in Canada for many decades.

It is also important to mandate a standardized length and diameter for the cigarette itself, as this would prevent the industry from being able to target specific segments of the market with particular cigarette sizes, most notably their deceptive marketing of slim or super-slim cigarettes to women.

In addition to adopting stringent plain and standardized packaging regulations, I support investing in the future of tobacco control, as the current Federal Tobacco Control Strategy (FTCS) will expire in March

2018. Tobacco control has become more complicated in recent years, with the advent of e-cigarettes and a spectrum of innovative new tobacco products, increases in hookah smoking, new industry marketing tactics and strategies to undermine tobacco control measures, contraband tobacco and a new regulatory framework. For these reasons, significant investments should be made in the FTCS,
which I believe would result in important health and safety benefits for my constituents of Markham-Unionville and for all Canadians.

Sincerely,

Bob Saroya, M.P.
Markham-Unionville