Plain packaging laws in Canada

Proposed changes to the packaging of tobacco products could have a direct impact on convenience stores throughout Canada. Recently, JTI-Macdonald Corp. Vice President Simon Grenier has penned a letter discussing why plain packaging may not have the positive impact that some officials believe it will. In fact, the downside of such regulation are significant in their own right. 

Read the full letter below:

Government must weigh both sides of the argument in plain packaging debate

The Government of Canada has introduced a bill in the Senate that will allow them to move ahead with plain packaging without proper consideration of the consequences of such a policy on Canadians and specifically retailers. While this decision by the government is concerning, it does offer an opportunity to voice concerns directly to decision makers. Federal government representatives are scheduled to return to Ottawa at the end of January and we urge you to have your say – please visit to send an email to your local MP and other relevant members in both the House and the Senate.

The tobacco industry knew that the current government intended to look at plain packaging for tobacco products and we expected, consistent with the government’s commitment to evidence-based decision-making, an open discussion and debate about what those changes would mean for the economy and safety of Canadians.

Unfortunately, after a short, online consultation process with selective evidence, it was clear the government had already decided how to proceed with little to no regard for the facts relating to such a policy. The reality is that plain packaging increases the sale of illegal tobacco which not only risks the safety of Canadians but negatively impacts all responsible businesses involved in the legal manufacture, distribution and sale of tobacco products.

Plain packaging doesn’t work

In Canada, graphic health warnings already take up 75 percent of the pack, tobacco products are hidden from view in stores and smokers are highly aware of the risks.

Based on the data we have seen from Australia, the only jurisdiction to have plain packaging in place, it simply doesn’t accomplish the goal of further reducing smoking rates and government data showed that 17,000 more 12-17 year olds started smoking daily after the policy was implemented.

Plain packaging fuels the illegal tobacco trade

The policy in Australia also resulted in a 21% increase in the sale of illegal and unregulated cigarettes. In Ontario, where 1 out of every 3 cigarettes sold is illegal, the problem will get worse with plain packaging. Banning branding makes it simple for criminals and counterfeiters to produce fake packs easily and cheaply. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reports that 175 criminal organizations already sell illegal tobacco at a 1/10th of the price, giving access to minors and robbing governments of an estimated $1.6 billion in taxes per year.

Retailers and distributors take a strong stand – have your say!

Based on these facts, we are committed to ensuring all Senators and MPs hear the reliable evidence available as this bill simply must not be passed without careful consideration given to the negative impact. We commend the OCSA and its members for engaging with our decision makers to ensure these concerns are heard.

Simon Grenier
Vice President
Sales, Canada
JTI-Macdonald Corp.