This federal license, issued on July 18, 2023, allows BAT/Nicoventures authority to market five flavours of a 4mg nicotine pouch. It also allows the company to advertise these pouches as a way to quit smoking (“help you quit smoking by delivering nicotine to your body, temporarily relieving cravings and nicotine withdrawal symptoms”) and a way for smokers to cope where smoking is banned (“used when you need to temporarily refrain from smoking, for example, around others, in smoke-free areas, airplanes, or in other situations when you wish to avoid smoking.”) It permits the pouches to be sold to children (although it advises people under 18 not to use it).

This post highlights how this development reveals vulnerabilities in Canada’s health regulatory approach, and how BAT has been able to use regulatory pathways intended for health products as a route to market for its addictive consumer products. Although Health Canada has adopted a harm reduction approach to tobacco, it has failed to established a legal framework for this strategy or to be transparent about how nicotine pouches fit into this strategy. Whatever benefits nicotine pouches might offer for public health, allowing British American Tobacco free rein on advertising them is unlikely to achieve a public benefit.