‘Stay away from our children’: Health Minister seeks new restrictions on flavours, marketing and sale of nicotine pouches

The federal liberals want to introduce new restrictions on nicotine pouchesHealth Minister Mark Holland announced Wednesday, saying it’s part of an effort to keep addictive products out of the hands of young Canadians.

“We’re seeing a whole new group of young people becoming addicted to these products,” Holland said. “I would tell the tobacco companies… to stay very far away from our children.”

First approved for Canadian markets last year, nicotine pouches are a non-tobacco product designed to help smokers quit. Placed between the gum and cheek in the user’s mouth, the pouches release the addictive chemical also found in cigarettes, vaping products and chewing tobacco, offering an alternative way to satisfy cravings.

As of this month, only one brand of nicotine pouch, Imperial Tobacco Canada’s Zonnic, is approved for sale in Canada. TO Canada Health Notice The latest update on Wednesday notes that, at four milligrams per dose, nicotine pouches are generally recommended for adults who smoke 25 or more cigarettes per day.

“Nicotine pouches are authorized only to help adults quit smoking,” the notice reads. “They should not be used recreationally, by non-smokers, by people under 18 years of age, or by other people at risk of suffering the toxic effects of nicotine.”

Dark corners, iron walls.

Holland clarified in his comments Wednesday that he is not opposed to innovation in the tobacco industry and welcomes the introduction of products to help smokers quit nicotine. It’s what he sees as the marketing of those products to non-nicotine users, including young people, he said, that has pressured him to act.

“We want to see products that stop people from using nicotine and tobacco,” he said.

“When it comes to innovation in the smoking cessation space, I celebrate it and I want to see more. But that’s not what happened. The tobacco industry, once again, used a loophole to try to create innovation in the space. “Quit smoking so that people stop using these products and create a new line of products that attracts addicts, especially children, to products that are deadly to their health.”

Described as imminent, the The proposed restrictions include new federal regulations. on how products are marketed and sold, complementing measures already taken at the provincial level in British Columbia and Quebec, where bags must be sold in pharmacies.

Another planned restriction is to limit the sale of flavored bags.

“We shouldn’t see flavors aimed at children,” Holland said. “Flavors like winter berries or…tropical fruits, whatever, that they’re offering—we all see it.”

The minister’s comments echoed concerns around the rise in youth vaping seen across Canada in recent years. Invoking his previous work during that time at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the minister said he is seeking to avoid a repeat of a pattern.

“Whatever dark corner the tobacco industry crawls into to go after our children… they will face me like an iron wall,” Holland said, raising his voice. “I’m sick of this… it’s done.”

‘They are not using Zonnic’: Imperial

At a news conference the same day, Eric Gagnon of Imperial Tobacco Canada said Holland’s accusation of taking advantage of a loophole “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Gagnon noted that Zonnic underwent a years-long approval process with regulators and that Imperial maintains its own safeguards to protect children beyond its legal obligations, including age verification at the point of sale.

“If kids are using nicotine pouches in Canada, they’re not using Zonnic,” Gagnon, Imperial’s vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs, told reporters Wednesday. “If a store sells Zonnic products and their age is not verified, and they inform us of this, we remove the product immediately.”

Gagnon said the company’s products are exclusively for adults and its marketing is developed in consultation with the federal government.

Regarding flavor options, he said that while Imperial would comply with any future restrictions, its position is that limiting pouches to flavors like menthol or simulated tobacco is not the right direction to go.

“Kids can still go to stores and buy nicotine gum or lozenges,” Gagnon said. “That is the real legal loophole in what is happening in the [nicotine-replacement therapy] space today.”

Gagnon said regulators have targeted Imperial even though it has launched efforts to prevent improper use of its products.

“We are aligned with most of what the minister said today,” he said. “We totally agree with the measures he wants to take. All we ask is that he stop singling out Imperial Tobacco Canada. We were approved by his department.”

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