Q. WHY ARE CIGARS SOLD IN CANADA IN GENERIC GREEN PACKAGING?
A. Canadian Plain Standardized Appearance (PSA) is a Health Canada initiative to protect younger populations and to reduce tobacco consumption among all Canadians. Their strategy is to require that the packaging of all tobacco products appear visually undesirable through applying standardized brownish-green packaging, and through the usage of large health warning labels. It is stated by HC that “no distinctive or attractive features can be displayed on tobacco products or their packages”.
Q. BUT CIGARS ARE A NICHE ITEM. CLEARLY CIGARETTES ARE THE REAL PROBLEM?
A. The plain packaging of tobacco products also exists in other countries. However many countries have opted to make cigars and pipe tobacco exempt and instead designate them as “specialty tobacco products” as they are shown to be smoked far less than cigarettes and are shown to be smoked by older (adult) populations and not youth. Unfortunately the Canadian Government has not taken this approach, and so far has decided to include cigars in with all the other tobacco products, even though cigars and pipe tobacco products represent less than 1% of the total national tobacco market.
Q. DOES THIS MEAN THAT THE ORIGINAL CIGAR BANDS AND BOXES ARE GONE?
A. For cigars, Health Canada has allowed cigar manufacturers to maintain the original cigar band underneath to help verify its authenticity. This is permitted provided that the original band becomes damaged if the overlying green band is removed by the consumer. Instead of original cigar boxes with lithographic prints or stamps, many cigar importers have resorted to cellophane bundling or a simple cardboard box, as replicating the original box for each individual size in plain packaging format would be very cost prohibitive.
Q. I CAN’T SEEM TO FIND SOME CIGARS THAT I USED TO ENJOY. WHERE DID THEY GO?
A. Due to the costs and complications associated with plain packaging, many cigar manufacturers have been forced to rationalize their portfolios for the Canadian marketplace. As a result, many international cigar manufacturers have refused to sell their products in Canada. As Health Canada continues to make it difficult to comply with the regulations, more lines and entire brands will dissappear from the shelves of Canadian tobacconists in the future.
Q. DESPITE THE UGLY PACKAGING, THE CIGAR ITSELF HASN’T CHANGED. IT’S ONLY PACKAGING. WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
A. Recently, Health Canada has proposed new amendments to their Plain and Standardized Packaging initiative that will make it difficult, if not impossible for Canadian retailers, distributors and manufacturers to successfully adhere to. It has been proposed that the health warning labels should cover 75% of the total cigar packaging.
Health Canada would also require frequent updating and rotation of health warning labels, which would mean that old health warning-labelled product would be periodically required to be removed from shelves and be replaced – again and again. The proposal, if implemented, will further complicate the operation of small businesses who sell premium cigars across the country, and will likely mean that such small businesses would have to downsize or close to accommodate the impact of reduced product availability and the additional costs.
Q. WOW, I WASN’T AWARE THAT HEALTH CANADA WAS DOING THIS. CIGARS ARE NOT THE REAL TARGET – CIGARETTES ARE.
HOW CAN I HELP ?
A. Thankfully, there are other cigar enthusiasts like yourself who are upset about feeling marginalized by these acts of government overreach. Recently, the Premium Cigar Association (PCA), a Washington, USA-based advocate for the premium cigar and pipe retailer industry, has launched its first grass-roots campaign in Canada.
Visit cigaraction.org, where the PCA is actively mobilizing Canadian consumers, retailers and distributors in the fight to support and defend the rights of cigar smokers by insisting that cigars be made exempt from Plain Standardized Packaging.
For additional information on the standardized packaging of cigars in Canada, click here