New packaging on the horizon? Ottawa Public Health’s wants it!


New packaging on the horizon? Ottawa Public Health’s wants it!

Ottawa Public Health's Urgent Call for Graphic Health Warnings on Cannabis Packaging

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is advocating for the inclusion of graphic warning labels on packages of cannabis products, similar to those found on cigarette packages. This recommendation is part of a broader effort to update cannabis rules and regulations on a national level. The proposed changes encompass various aspects, including the location of cannabis stores and measures to minimize the appeal of cannabis to young individuals. As the federal government seeks feedback on its cannabis regulations, OPH aims to contribute to the discussion by emphasizing the importance of graphic health warnings on cannabis packaging.

Current Cannabis Packaging Regulations

Presently, cannabis packaging regulations require plain packaging with a standardized cannabis symbol, product information, and a standard warning message in text format. In stark contrast, cigarette packages display graphic images depicting severe health conditions caused by smoking, such as strokes and cancer. The discrepancy between the packaging requirements for cigarettes and cannabis is notable, prompting OPH to advocate for the adoption of similar graphic health warnings for cannabis products.

Research on Cannabis Packaging and Health Warnings

Extensive research supports the efficacy of plain packaging and health warnings in reducing brand appeal and increasing health knowledge among youth and young adults. Studies demonstrate that plain packaging and prominent health warnings effectively deter individuals from engaging in harmful behaviors associated with the use of tobacco products. By extending these measures to cannabis packaging, OPH aims to provide consumers with the necessary information to make informed decisions about cannabis use.

Ottawa Public Health’s Recommendations

OPH urges Health Canada to include graphic health warnings, akin to those seen on cigarette packages, on cannabis packaging. This recommendation aligns with the organization’s objective of promoting public health and ensuring individuals are fully aware of the potential risks associated with cannabis consumption. Furthermore, OPH advocates for collaborative efforts between Health Canada and provinces to explore density limits for cannabis stores, preventing an over-concentration of such establishments in close proximity.

To safeguard the well-being of young people, OPH proposes restrictions on packaging design that might appeal to children. This includes banning words like “candies” and prohibiting the use of shapes, sprinkles, and vibrant colors on edibles. By eliminating elements that attract children, OPH aims to reduce accidental cannabis poisoning incidents, which have seen an increase since the legalization of edible cannabis products. The organization also emphasizes the need for safe storage warnings and poison control information on cannabis packaging to mitigate potential health risks.

Counterarguments and Industry Perspective

While OPH advocates for stricter packaging regulations, there are counterarguments calling for more lenient rules to enable sellers to provide customers with information about product variations. Proponents of looser regulations argue that educating consumers about the differences between cannabis products would enhance transparency and support the struggling cannabis industry. Finding the right balance between stringent regulations and industry support remains a key consideration.


In conclusion, Ottawa Public Health’s recommendations for graphic warnings on cannabis packaging reflect a commitment to public health and the promotion of informed decision-making. By drawing inspiration from the effective graphic health warnings found on cigarette packages, OPH aims to ensure that cannabis consumers are well-informed about the potential health risks associated with its use. The proposed regulations also address concerns regarding the concentration of cannabis stores, packaging design that might appeal to young people, and the need for safe storage warnings and poison control information. The upcoming approval process by the Ottawa Board of Health signifies the progress being made in updating cannabis rules and regulations.


  1. Will graphic health warnings on cannabis packaging be mandatory?
    • The recommendation from Ottawa Public Health suggests the inclusion of graphic health warnings on cannabis packaging. However, the final decision lies with Health Canada, which will consider various factors before making a determination.
  2. How can plain packaging and health warnings reduce brand appeal?
    • Plain packaging and health warnings have been shown to decrease the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco and related products. By removing branding elements and displaying explicit health warnings, individuals are less likely to be enticed by the packaging and may develop a better understanding of the associated health risks.
  3. What are the concerns with density limits for cannabis stores?
    • Without density limits, there is a risk of cannabis stores being concentrated in close proximity, potentially leading to issues related to accessibility, community impact, and competition. Collaborative efforts between Health Canada and provinces can help establish appropriate density limits that address these concerns.
  4. What measures can be taken to ensure cannabis products don’t appeal to young people?
    • To prevent the appeal of cannabis products to young individuals, packaging design can be regulated. This includes banning terms like “candies” and prohibiting the use of shapes, sprinkles, and vibrant colors on edibles that might attract children.
  5. How can safe storage warnings and poison control information be incorporated into packaging?
    • Including clear and prominent warnings about safe storage practices and providing poison control information on cannabis packaging can help mitigate potential risks. This information aims to educate individuals about responsible storage and ensure they have access to appropriate resources in case of accidental ingestion or exposure.