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Call for Canadian cigarettes to be in plain packages

One potential reason for taking up or continuing with smoking is the colorful designs on the packets, designed to make one brand more appealing than another. Slogans and designs can appeal to younger people in particular. More often smoking is a childhood addiction, not an adult choice.

In order to drive down smoking rates some governments have legislated for cigarette packets to have plain designs, looking universally similar, with only the product branded printed in identical font. The countries to enact this are Australia (in 2012) and the U.K., France and Ireland (each in 2016.)

With the U.K., in addition, cigarettes are hidden behind a screen so they do not catch the eye and instead a request needs to be made a kiosk. Evidence from Australia indicates there are 100,000 fewer smokers in Australia in the first 34 months following the implementation of plain packaging.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are requesting all countries adopt the plain packaging measure. This would require the removal of all branding (colors, imagery, corporate logos and trademarks. This forms part of the World No Tobacco Day social media campaign (see:@whosmokefree or #wntd2015).

This measure is being supported within Canada by the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association. The association is of the view there will be a positive impact on both oral and overall health. Medical evidence indicates that the chemicals contained in tobacco smoke move through the oral cavity and affect lips, teeth, gums, tongue, and cheek. The biggest risk is oral cancer.

Expanding on the reasons for this, Donna Scott, who is president of the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, said: “Plain packaging is a proven tobacco control measure. This approach reduces the attractiveness of these products, restricts advertising and promotion and their associated misleading claims, and increases the effectiveness of health warnings.”

In relation to Canada, a new study by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences has found that reducing unhealthy behaviour, like smoking, has saved the province almost $5 billion in health-care costs over the past decade.

Not everyone supports World No Tobacco Day, seeing it as a challenge to individual freedom of choice or a culturally acceptable form of discrimination. Moreover, the idea of a plain package ban is seen as unnecessarily restrictive. The counter view is there are 6 million deaths each year worldwide, including 600,000 of which are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke (so-called passive smoking.)

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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