Cigarette Packaging an Advertising Loophole for Tobacco Companies

    Plain and Standardized Packaging Needed in Canada to Limit Tobacco

MONTREAL, Nov. 2 /CNW Telbec/ - Each year, tobacco packs generate more than 30 billion impressions. Facing extensive advertising restrictions, tobacco companies are increasingly turning to product packaging to advertise and portray brand values, downplay health concerns and link smoking to specific lifestyles. To combat this trend, presenters at the 6th National Conference on Tobacco or Health will make the case for plain and standardized packaging in Canada.

Plain packaging means the elimination of all promotional aspects from tobacco products, both inside and out, with the exception of the brand name. This includes the use of any colour, logo, distinctive font or descriptive words, as well as the regulation and standardization of packaging size, shape and composition. All materials and foils used in the packaging should also be regulated.

"Tobacco companies continue to use cigarette packs as miniature billboards to communicate brand values and lifestyle messages that promote tobacco use," said Melodie Tilson, director of policy for the Non-Smokers' Rights Association (NSRA). "Until there is control of tobacco packaging, there will be no true advertising ban in Canada."

In recent years, tobacco companies have experimented with numerous packaging strategies to circumvent existing advertising restrictions and communicate brand messaging to current and prospective consumers. These tactics include the use of slogans and taglines, the cross promotion of tobacco brands on packaging, and enhancing branding visibility on products themselves, as seen on cigarette filters.

Furthermore, in the face of prohibitions on the use of the terms 'light' and 'mild' that wrongly imply tobacco products may be less harmful, tobacco companies are now using lighter colour schemes, more white space and new descriptors such as 'smooth' to try and communicate this same distorted perception.

At the same time, tobacco companies have been employing subversive tactics to make the graphic warnings on cigarette packs appear less intrusive. This has been achieved through the manipulation of packaging size and shape, as well as types of inks and materials used in package composition.

"Tobacco companies' experimentation to increase package advertising and downplay warning label effectiveness highlights the need for plain and standardized packaging and new health warning labels in Canada," added Tilson. "The graphic warnings first introduced in 2000 need to be redesigned and new risk factors should be included to ensure health warnings remain fresh and highly effective deterrents."

During the conference the NSRA will be launching a new publication that summarizes the need, evidence and support for this tobacco control intervention, called The Case for Plain and Standardized Tobacco Packaging. The document will be available on the NSRA's website at

Tobacco use is the single largest cause of preventable disease and death and one of the biggest strains on Canada's healthcare system.

SOURCE National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTH)

For further information: For further information: To arrange an interview with Melodie Tilson or to request a copy of The Case for Plain and Standardized Tobacco Packaging, please contact: Conference media room, (514) 879-6822; English media: Matt Drennan-Scace, (416) 471-8475,; French media: Éric Normandeau, (514) 254-0195,

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National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTH)

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Canadian Council for Tobacco Control (CCTC)

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