Media Release

Tobacco plain packaging support growing worldwide with 25 countries and territories moving forward with regulations



An international report released today by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) shows there is tremendous momentum worldwide for tobacco plain packaging. There are now 25 countries and territories moving forward with plain packaging, with 9 having adopted the measure and 16 working on it.


The number of countries requiring plain packaging is expected to accelerate even further because of the World Trade Organization (WTO) decision on June 28, 2018 that Australia’s plain packaging requirements are consistent with WTO’s international trade agreements.


“Despite tobacco industry opposition, plain packaging is inevitable in Canada as illustrated by the worldwide trend,” says Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst, Canadian Cancer Society. “In spite of tobacco industry lobbying, 25 countries are moving forward with plain packaging, which is a compelling response to their opposition. The sooner plain packaging is implemented in Canada, the sooner kids will be protected and the sooner public health will benefit.”


On June 22, 2018, Canada’s Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor released draft plain packaging regulations for public comment, with the consultation period ending September 6, 2018. CCS praised the proposed Canadian plain packaging regulations as the best in the world. Health Canada is now considering the comments received from the public before adopting final regulations.


Tobacco packaging is one of the last and most effective ways for companies to promote their products, using eye-catching logos and colours designed to appeal to consumers. Plain packaging reduces tobacco use by eliminating promotion on packaging, reducing product appeal, curbing package deception and increasing the impact of health warnings. In addition, the shape of the package must be in a standardized format, outlawing sales tactics such as slim packs appealing to girls and young women. Research shows that plain packaging works.


Plain packaging has been implemented in Australia (2012), France (2016), the United Kingdom (2016), Norway (2017), Ireland (2017), New Zealand (2018) and Hungary (2018). It will be implemented in Uruguay (2019) and Slovenia (2020) and is in process or under consideration in Canada, Belgium, Thailand, Georgia, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Romania, Jersey, Guernsey, Taiwan, Chile, Finland, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.


In 2001, Canada was the first country in the world to implement graphic picture warnings on cigarette packages. Since then, almost 120 countries and territories (118 in total) have followed Canada’s lead – accounting for 58% of the world’s population. Canada’s leadership in graphic picture warnings has resulted in enormous global health gains.


The CCS report, Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report, ranks 206 countries and territories based on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages and lists countries that have finalized requirements for picture warnings. In total, 107 countries and territories have required warnings to cover at least 50% of the package front and back (on average), up from 94 in 2016 and 24 in 2008. There are now 55 countries and territories with a size of at least 65% (on average) of the package front and back.


Canada ties for 11th in the world in terms of package warning size, with messaging that cover 75% of the package’s front and back. East Timor has the top spot with a warning size of 92.5% (85% front, 100% back), Nepal and Vanuatu are tied for second with a warning size of 90%, New Zealand is 4th at 87.5%, while Hong Kong, India and Thailand are 5th at 85%. The United States is in last place tied for 160th in the world, with no health warnings required on either the front or back of the package.


The report was released today in Geneva, Switzerland, at the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control being held October 1-6. The report supports the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which was ratified by 181 countries. The goal of this international treaty is to control the global tobacco epidemic. Its guidelines recommend that parties consider implementing plain packaging.


Cigarette Package Health Warnings report in English

Cigarette Package Health Warnings report in French


Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada and is responsible for about 30% of all cancer deaths and 85% of lung cancer cases. Tobacco kills around 45,000 Canadians every year. There are still 5 million Canadians who smoke, representing 16% of the population aged 15+.


Canada-wide, smokers can call the number on cigarette packages 1-866-366-3667 to receive proven and personalized support to quit smoking. The Canadian Cancer Society operates the quitline in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, PEI and the Yukon through Smokers’ Helpline and the ligne j’ARRÊTE in Quebec.


About the Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.


For more information, please contact:

Rob Cunningham

Senior Policy Analyst

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: (613)762-4624