The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Canadian province leads in tobacco package warnings

Tobacco control legislation adopted in the Canadian province of Quebec on 26 November sets one global precedent and is among world leaders in another measure.

The law, which strengthens existing legislation, will require the world’s largest minimum surface area for package warnings: 4,648 square millimetres (46.5 square centimetres).

That means not only will warnings have to comply with Canadian Government requirements that they occupy a minimum 75 percent size of the package front and back, but the total surface area of the package must not fall below the minimum total surface area. As a result, superslim “purse” packs targeting women will no longer be allowed, and modifications will have to be made to some other pack sizes in order to meet the minimum.

In 12 months

Australia (as of 2012), India (as of April 2016) and the EU (as of May 2016) have minimum surface areas, but not as large as Quebec will have. The province’s provision on warnings will come into effect in 12 months.

“The measures adopted today will contribute to reduce the number of young people (in Quebec) who start using tobacco, who number more than 250 each week,” said Flory Doucas, Spokesperson of the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control.

The Quebec division of the Canadian Cancer Society also welcomed the measures. “The industry knows it well: flavoured products are a foot in the door to tobacco addiction. The same applies to the slender packaging of super slim cigarettes to look like lipstick, which targets young girls. From now on, these products will be banned,” said CCS Director of Public Issues, Mélanie Champagne.

Government's take

“The bill adopted today contains ambitious measures allowing Quebec to take its place as a world leader in the fight against smoking,” said Lucie Charlebois, Quebec's junior minister for public health, in a statement.

Quebec will also ban promotional payments to retailers, something very few jurisdictions worldwide have done. These include giving bonuses for meeting sales volume targets, rebates if a brand is sold below a maximum retail price, and chances to win vacations by engaging in promotional activities.

Flavours ban

The province will also ban all flavoured tobacco products, including menthol. This continues a trend in Canada, where five provinces have adopted a ban on flavours, including menthol. Nova Scotia established the precedent-setting ban on menthol on 31 May 2015, followed by Alberta (30 Sept).

New Brunswick’s ban comes into force on 1 Jan. 2016, followed by Quebec (26 Sept. 2016) and Ontario (1 Jan. 2017).

The Quebec bill will also ban flavours in herbal (non-tobacco) products for water pipe smoking. This may be a world first.

Quebec’s legislation has many other provisions, which other provinces have also adopted, including smoke-free patios, bans on smoking in cars with kids, in and near sports fields/areas and children’s playgrounds.

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