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Small businesses react to Ottawa’s legislation for tobacco and cannabis product packaging

Published 11 May 2018

Small business retailers have expressed disappointment about the passage of Ottawa's Bill S-5, which introduces plain and standardized packaging for tobacco products and radically different treatment applied for cannabis-based cigarettes under Bill C-45.

Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA) President Satinder Chera said: “The government’s contradictory approach defies logic.

“Canada’s own Health Minister has said that labelling on marijuana cigarettes is necessary to give adult consumers the information they need to make informed, educated decisions. Why would we not want adult consumers to make the same kinds of informed decisions about tobacco, or vaping products too?”

Bill S-5 also restricts retailers from sharing communication about vaping products with customers in store; something that is necessary if expecting adult consumers are to make the switch. Additionally, cannabis companies are already using, and will continue to be allowed to use branding to their advantage to develop attractive, unrestricted lifestyle advertisements geared towards youth.

Retailers have also sounded alarm over the impact of plain and standardized packaging on contraband tobacco, following reports of an uptick in the illicit market in Australia after their own adoption of plain packaging.

National Association of Convenience Store Distributors (NACDA) president Anne Kothawala said: “The increase in access and use of contraband tobacco in Canada is already a cause for concern, with rates as high as 65% in northern Ontario.

“Despite warnings from law enforcement agencies, the government is promoting legislation that will allow the illegal market to thrive.”

Both the CCSA and NACDA have noted that countries that have introduced plain packaging are dealing with unforeseen consequences, including a rise in illicit tobacco use and no decreases in overall tobacco consumption. France’s Minister of Health declared plain packaging in the country a failure.

Chera said: “We fail to understand why Canada would want to replicate failed public policy.”

Small business retailers and distributors are asking the government to ensure a standard set of regulations for tobacco and cannabis packaging; allow for substantiated, approved messaging between retailers and consumers regarding vaping products; and an appropriate transition period of no less than 12 months to prepare for these changes and educate retailers.

Kothawala said: “Decision-makers should use the regulatory development period as an opportunity to fix the inherent flaws in this bill.” 

Source: Company Press Release