Retailers and Public Health Experts Clash Over Nicotine Pouch Rules

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    On July 9, 2024, the Canadian Convenience Industry Council (CICC) urged the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government to oppose proposed federal regulations that could require nicotine replacement therapies, such as nicotine pouches, to be sold only behind pharmacy counters. This move, according to the CICC, would severely impact retailers’ interests and restrict consumer access to these products in convenience stores across Canada.

    New Regulations and Background

    The proposed changes come in response to the growing popularity of nicotine pouch products and concerns about youth access. Canadian Federal Health Minister Mark Holland announced in March that Health Canada is seeking legislative and regulatory mechanisms to restrict youth access to nicotine products through advertising, flavor, and point-of-sale limitations. Recent amendments to the Food and Drugs Act, passed by Parliament, will enable Health Canada to swiftly improve regulations aimed at preventing youth nicotine use.

    Currently, British Columbia and Quebec have already implemented similar regulations. Health Minister Holland expressed his hope that other regions nationwide would follow suit. Health Canada is actively consulting with stakeholders to refine and implement these measures.

    Concerns from Retail Industry

    The Canadian Convenience Industry Council (CICC), representing numerous convenience stores including Marie’s Mini Mart and North Atlantic, has voiced strong opposition to the proposed regulations. Mike Hammoud, vice president of the Atlantic Division of the CICC, emphasized that convenience stores are not responsible for the rise in teenage nicotine use. He argued that convenience stores have shown a high degree of responsibility in selling beer, tobacco, and e-cigarette products and should be trusted to do the same for nicotine pouches.

    Hammoud expressed concern that removing nicotine replacement products from convenience stores could harm small businesses, especially in rural areas, and deprive provincial governments of their longstanding role in deciding where and how products are sold. The council supports banning certain flavors and marketing techniques but believes that completely removing nicotine products from convenience stores could have unintended negative consequences.

    Public Health Perspective

    Public health experts, however, support stricter regulations on nicotine products to protect youth. Dr. Leslie Phillips, a professor at the Memorial University School of Pharmacy, highlighted that the colorful, candy-like packaging and flavors of nicotine pouches make them particularly appealing to teenagers. She argued that these products should be sold behind pharmacy counters, where consumers can receive advice and support from pharmacy staff.

    Kevin Coady, executive director of the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, echoed these concerns, stating that if nicotine pouches are intended to help people quit smoking, they should be sold in a controlled environment where professional guidance is available. Coady hopes the federal government will implement more restrictions to prevent nicotine pouches from becoming as popular among youth as e-cigarettes.

    Government and Regulatory Responses

    Health Minister Mark Holland and his team at Health Canada are working to ensure the proposed regulations are effective and comprehensive. Jennifer Konieczny, a spokesperson for the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Health, noted that the province has seen an increase in youth nicotine use, and legislative amendments will be based on public consultations that began on May 30. The goal is to balance public health priorities with the economic concerns of retailers.

    Impact on Retailers and Rural Areas

    The proposed regulations could have significant economic implications for small businesses, particularly those in rural areas. Convenience stores in these regions rely heavily on the sale of tobacco and nicotine products, and removing these items from their shelves could threaten their viability. The CICC argues that such a move could lead to job losses and reduced economic activity in rural communities.

    Previous Regulatory Actions and Product Recalls

    Health Canada has previously taken action to regulate nicotine pouches, including issuing recall orders for popular products like ZYN and XQS. Currently, the only legally sold nicotine pouches in Canada are from Imperial Tobacco Canada’s Zonnic brand.

    Comparison with Other Nicotine Products

    The regulation of nicotine pouches can be compared to the regulatory approach taken with e-cigarettes. Both products have seen significant increases in popularity, particularly among youth, prompting regulatory bodies to impose stricter controls. Lessons learned from the regulation of e-cigarettes, including advertising restrictions and flavor bans, can inform the approach to nicotine pouches.

    Future Directions and Predictions

    The ongoing debate over nicotine pouch regulations is likely to result in stricter controls on their sale and marketing. Future measures may include nationwide bans on flavored nicotine pouches, increased enforcement of age restrictions, and mandatory placement behind pharmacy counters.


    What are the proposed regulations for nicotine pouches in Canada?

    The proposed regulations could require nicotine pouches to be sold only behind pharmacy counters, prohibiting their sale in convenience stores.

    Why are public health experts supporting these regulations?

    Public health experts believe that the colorful, candy-like packaging and flavors of nicotine pouches appeal to teenagers, and selling them behind pharmacy counters ensures that consumers receive professional guidance.

    What impact could the regulations have on convenience stores?

    The regulations could significantly impact convenience stores, particularly in rural areas, by reducing their sales and potentially threatening their viability.

    What has Health Canada done previously regarding nicotine pouches?

    Health Canada has issued recall orders for popular nicotine pouch products like ZYN and XQS, reflecting its commitment to ensuring product safety and compliance.

    How do nicotine pouch regulations compare to e-cigarette regulations?

    Both nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes have seen increased popularity among youth, prompting regulatory bodies to impose stricter controls on advertising, flavors, and point-of-sale restrictions.

    What are the potential future directions for nicotine pouch regulations?

    Future regulations may include nationwide bans on flavored nicotine pouches, increased enforcement of age restrictions, and mandatory placement behind pharmacy counters to protect public health.