In the wake of the Health Canada’s new legislation, Imperial Tobacco is coming out swinging, calling plain packaging a “nanny state” approach that does little to change consumer behaviour.
“We remain shocked that despite all of the evidence, the Government of Canada is moving ahead with bad public policy,” said Eric Gagnon, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Imperial Tobacco Canada. “The experience of other countries demonstrates that plain packaging does not change consumer behaviour and that it’s a proven way to fuel an already booming illegal tobacco market in Canada.”
Imperial Tobacco points out 20 percent of the market remains controlled by illegal operators and criminal organizations selling products outside of any regulatory framework and untaxed (depriving Canadian governments of more than $2 billion in tax revenue every year).
“The illegal tobacco problem in Canada is poised to get much worse now that it will be impossible to differentiate between a legal and illegal product. Not only has the federal government had its head in the sand for long enough when it comes to illegal tobacco, they have facilitated the thriving illegal market by allowing illegal operators unfettered access to the Canadian market,” says Gagnon. “The RCMP have stated that there are 50 illegal factories operating in Canada and 175 criminal gangs involved in the illegal trafficking of tobacco, and the feds have done nothing about it. They now need to step up and address the issue they created themselves.”
Still, plain packing continues to gain traction around the globe. In 2012, Australia became the first country to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products, leading the way for others to follow suit. Today, New Zealand, France, Norway, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and United Kingdom required standardized packaging. Singapore, Belgium and Turkey will institute plain packaging in 2020.
Global uptake notwithstanding, Gagnon maintains plain packaging isn’t effective. “Despite what some Canadian anti-tobacco lobbyists will claim, plain tobacco packaging has been tried, tested and failed, and it will have the same result in Canada,” he said. “The plain packaging experiment in Australia, New Zealand, France and the United Kingdom have yielded the same results: plain tobacco packaging does not work.”