February 2023

Mandated by Health Canada, Canadian tobacco legislation is largely conducted as a blanket initiative that has routinely afforded very little distinction between a cigarette and a premium hand-made cigar.

Health Canada’s recent introduction of plain packaging (Plain Standardized Appearance – PSA effective April 23, 2019), has complicated the process of purchasing a cigar in Canada, and has essentially demonized cigar smokers and their choice to use a legal product.

Today, new proposed legislative amendments threaten to topple the entire Canadian cigar industry, and must be firmly opposed if cigars are to remain available for purchase in Canada

In defense of Canadian cigar consumers, retailers and distributors, the Premium Cigar Association (PCA) has launched its first campaign in Canada to protect the rights of cigar smokers and to help preserve Canada’s premium cigar industry at large.


The Plain Packaging of Cigars

Under Canadian plain packaging, “no distinctive or attractive features can be displayed on tobacco products or their packages. The PSA mandates the size, shape, and colour of tobacco product packaging, as well as the location, font size and colour of permitted text to be displayed. All tobacco product packages are required to be the same drab brown colour (Pantone 448 C), bearing only the permitted text displayed in a standard location, font style, colour and size.”

Since plain packaging took effect, many cigar manufacturers have chosen not to produce certain varieties and sizes to the new specifications.

Many have withdrawn entire lines from the Canadian market completely.

New Proposed Amendments To Health Warning Labels

The Canadian industry for premium cigars is now facing a new proposed series of legislative amendments to packaging that will threaten the viability of your neighborhood tobacconist, and very existence of premium cigars being sold in Canada in the future.

If left unchecked, the industry may find itself unable to effectively comply with these proposed changes as they are written.

Health Canada is proposing a new health warning label regulation that would now cover 75% of the entire cigar packaging.

They 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, and again.

It cannot be overstated as to how difficult and costly this task would be to routinely execute.

“The proposal, if implemented, will 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.”

Such complicated packaging requirements would likely prove impossible for distributors and tobacconists to keep pace with.

The new proposed legislation would seriously affect the selection of cigars you will find at your tobacconist, as brands and sizes would likely be further rationalized due to economies of scale.

The proposal, if implemented, will 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.

Cigars and Pipes: Specialty Tobacco Products

Canadian regulations presently fail to recognize premium cigars (and pipes) as something that is inherently different from cigarettes and the other tobacco products that they have been lumped in with.

In the UK under the Department of Health & Social Care (DHS), large cigars, individually wrapped cigars, cigarillos and pipe tobacco are considered “specialist tobacco products” and are exempt from the plain packaging that is mandatory for cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco packs.

In its decision, the DHS cited substantial evidence that suggested that not only were smoking rates of cigars and pipes much lower than cigarettes, but it was particularly reduced in younger age groups.

Other countries such as France, Belgium and Denmark have adopted a similar approach in exempting cigars and pipes from plain packaging requirements.

The Freedom To Choose For Adult Consumers

For Canadian adult cigar consumers, premium cigars represent a lifestyle, provide relaxation, and create opportunities to meet new people and connect with those who share the same passion.

Under the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, Health Canada’s principal aim is to “enhance public awareness, particularly among young persons”.

Cigar smokers comprise a very small percentage of national tobacco sales (under 1%). They are consumed by adult smokers and do not appeal to youth by appearance, taste or price. The average consumer typically does not inhale the smoke of a cigar, is generally over 30 years of age, and smokes cigars much less frequently than those smoke cigarettes, vape, or use other tobacco products.

For Canadian retailers, distributors, and manufacturers, the business of premium cigars is often composed of family-run operations that exist to support their livelihood and the livelihood of many others around them.

Furthermore, it supports the livelihood of many who work in nations where tobacco is cultivated to make premium cigars. Many of these nations, like Honduras or Nicaragua for example, are considered developing nations.

In 2022, the government in the Dominican Republic chose to declare tobacco as a protected “cultural heritage product” – an integral component its nation’s history, culture and economy.

The Premium Cigar Association

Recently, the Premium Cigar Association (PSA), a Washington, USA-based advocate for the premium cigar and pipe retailer industry, has launched its first grass-roots campaign in Canada. Through cigaraction.org, the PCA is actively mobilizing Canadian consumers, retailers and distributors in the fight to support and defend the rights of cigar smokers.

“We believe that cigar smokers and tobacconists should be able to enjoy their passion and run their businesses, without being marginalized or harmed by regulations meant for a different injury” the PCA wrote in a press release.

The campaign has issued a call to action for cigar enthusiasts like yourself to contact your Member of Parliament and oppose these proposed legislations which stand to inflict serious harm upon the industry, and your ability to enjoy a cigar in Canada.

The cigaraction.org link will take visitors to a page where a pre-filled letter can be directly sent to your designated MP.

Take action today and defend your right to enjoy cigars in Canada. 

For additional information on the Plain and Standardized Appearance pertaining to cigars in Canada, visit here

Instructional video on how to take action: