Healthy Living in the North

Get ready for plain packaging in Canada

Two cigarette boxes in the new plain packaging.

Plain packaging comes into effect in Canada on November 9, 2019. (Photo credit: Canadian Cancer Society)

Here’s a fact you might already know: Commercial tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Canada and has negative health effects for all ages.

Here’s a fact you might not know: Across Canada, tobacco product packages will be stripped of all bright colours and logos, and will now be a plain brown default colour.

Plain packaging starts November 9 in Canada

Health Canada regulations for plain packaging take effect on November 9, 2019. At the manufacturer’s level, retailers will have a 90-day grace window to sell off their remaining coloured inventory. As of February 7, 2020, we will no longer see colour or design that have long been used to lure new users and create brand loyalty in the tobacco world.

What it will look like

All tobacco packaging will feature the same brown base colour, basic grey text, and minimalist layout under the new requirements. The size and appearance of cigarettes, cigars, and other products inside the packages will also be standardized.

This regulation is limiting the tobacco industry’s ability to advertise and market their products through attractive packaging. Research has shown that plain and standardized tobacco packaging reduces the appeal of tobacco products, particularly among youth. For example: the colour green in the tobacco world has traditionally been linked to menthol products, or so-called “slim” products, for female consumers. Slims and superslims, which critics say falsely promotes a less harmful tobacco product, will be banned by February 7, 2020, at the retailer level.

Packaging boxes will change too

In November 2021, the use of a cigarette box format known as “slide and shell” will be mandatory, though there will be a transition period for implementation. This is to enhance the size and impact of health warnings printed on the packaging. Further timelines are set for cigars and other tobacco products.

Plain packaging around the world

These requirements follow the lead of countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom, which have their own packaging rules and were at the forefront of tobacco packaging change. There has been resistance to plain packaging from tobacco companies, who suggest that plain packaging doesn’t work and that it may boost the illicit sale of tobacco products. At least 16 other countries have adopted similar measures and Canada will have one of the best tobacco plain packaging regulations in the world, setting multiple world precedents.

There are 29 countries and territories moving forward with plain packaging, with 16 having adopted or working on the measure.

For more information on plain packaging

Visit Health Canada: Plain and Standardized Appearance for Tobacco Packaging and Products.

Interested in quitting?

There are many reasons why one should quit smoking. It is always a good time to quit. Quitting smoking can be difficult. Replacing cigarettes with other tobacco products can still negatively affect your health. If you or someone you know is interested in quitting or decreasing their tobacco use, encourage them to talk to their primary care provider (such as a doctor or nurse practitioner).

The following tobacco cessation resources are also available:

  • QuitNow offers free information, support, and counseling by trained professionals by phone, text, or email.
  • BC Smoking Cessation Program: Everyone in BC can access 12 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patch, inhaler and lozenges) per calendar year through their local pharmacy. Women who are pregnant or lactating are advised to consult with their doctor or pharmacist.
  • First Nations Health Authority benefits program offers supplementary coverage for nicotine replacement therapy.

Note: In this post, as in most public health messages, “tobacco use” refers to the use of commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco as opposed to traditional uses of tobacco.

Lindsay Willoner

About Lindsay Willoner

Originally from Ontario, Lindsay started her nursing career with Northern Health in 2006 as a public health nurse. Since then, Lindsay has branched out in a variety of leadership roles both within and outside NH, including as a public health resource nurse, working with Options for Sexual Health, community influenza contracts, BCNU stewardship, and working at the local long-term care facility. Lindsay currently works as Regional Nursing Lead for Tobacco Reduction based out of the Terrace Health Unit.


World No Tobacco Day: five facts you need to know

May 31st is World No Tobacco Day! Interested in learning how quitting commercial tobacco can improve your health? Check out these five facts:

  1. Quitting improves your health right away. If you quit smoking or chewing commercial tobacco, your health will improve right away! Your heart and lungs will be healthier within 24 hours of your last cigarette and your body will be stronger. You will reduce the chance of having a heart attack and developing lung disease.
  2. Quitting for one day could win you $250. Not quite ready to quit? Maybe commit to quitting for a day. You could stop smoking or chewing tobacco for one day and enter to win the $250 cash prize. On June 5th and the first Tuesday of every month you can enter to win at Tobacco Free Tuesdays!

    Quitting pays off! Enter to win a $250 cash prize on the first Tuesday of every month at

  3. Food will taste better. Food will taste better and you will feel more energetic. You may be interested in developing a healthier lifestyle with better food choices and exercise. Check out the Northern Health Matters blog for healthy ideas!
  4. Physical activity will help you manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. You may have tried to quit before and had difficulty dealing with the urge to smoke. Physical activity will help you manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  5. Free support is available. Nicotine patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers can also help reduce withdrawal. You can access 12 weeks of nicotine products through the BC Smoking Cessation Program. Talk to your pharmacist to get your first 4 weeks. You can also access free counselling through QuitNow services by phone, text, or email. Check out for resources and an on-line community.
Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.


What is World No Tobacco Day?

WHO infographic

World No Tobacco Day is an opportunity to talk globally, nationally, provincially, and within our own communities about reducing commercial tobacco use.

What is World No Tobacco Day? It’s an opportunity to talk globally, nationally, provincially, and within our own communities about reducing commercial tobacco use*. The World Health Organization (WHO) states commercial tobacco use kills about 7 million people every year and this number is expected to grow to 8 million a year by 2030 without increased action.

We see the harms of tobacco use in our health care facilities, schools, and communities on a daily basis. Tobacco use contributes to worsening health such as respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease; meanwhile, health care costs continue to increase as we treat people for tobacco related illnesses.

We can act now to stop this trend. Northern Health has a smoke-free grounds clinical practice standard that promotes the health of our patients, staff, families, and friends. This standard prohibits smoking and vaping in our facilities and on our grounds. Many of our communities now have bylaws that also prohibit smoking and vaping in outdoor spaces. These laws directly impact the health of our communities in a positive way!

But, we need your help. We need you to help us provide information and support to people who may be using commercial tobacco or who vape in our smoke-free spaces. Most people who use commercial tobacco want to quit. There is help available at and free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) available at any pharmacy in B.C. Speak to a pharmacist for details. With support and resources, we can help make quitting become a reality for those who wish to quit.

Here are some tips for supporting tobacco users in smoke-free spaces to quit:

  • Inform the person or people using tobacco in a smoke-free area that they are doing so in an area where this is not allowed. Many of these bylaws are still pretty new!
  • Ask the person if he or she would like to quit using commercial tobacco.
  • Provide them with the website for free resources and support.

Thank you for doing your part to make commercial tobacco use a part of history!

*In this post and in most public health messaging, “tobacco” is short for commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Using these is highly addictive and a leading cause of disease and premature death. However, Northern Health recognizes that natural tobacco has been an integral part of many Indigenous cultures in B.C. for thousands of years. Traditional uses of tobacco in ritual, ceremony, and prayer is entirely different from smoking or chewing commercial tobacco. Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial uses of tobacco and recognizes that the benefits of traditional uses can outweigh the potential harms.