Palm N Turn
As the Canadian director of poison control, Dr. Henri J. Breault was instrumental in creating the first child-resistant container. He established the Ontario Association for the Control of Accidental Poisoning in 1962, paving the way for the 1967 invention of the “Palm N Turn” cap design, which has since become the standard in child-resistant packaging.
Although child-resistant (CR) packaging is a part of everyday life, poisoning still remains a hazard to children, causing about 30 pediatric deaths each year. In 2014, the American Association of Poison Control Centers received about 3 million calls from consumers for poison exposure treatment or information.
CR packaging is required by regulation for prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, pesticides, and household chemicals. Some jurisdictions require unit packaging such as blister packs for child safety.
The Need For Evolution
Despite the established designs of CR packaging, companies are looking for new designs because of changes in varying industries. There are more products that require CR packaging now because of cannabis legalization, widespread publicity about poisoning incidents related to detergent pods, and an ongoing shift from rigid containers to flexible packaging.
An example of a child-resistant option for flexible packaging is Presto’s Child-Guard zipper, which unzips the pouch when the slider tongue is simultaneously aligned with a groove, depressed, and pulled. PPi Technologies also uses a re-closable CR zipper for its Cannapaq standup pouch for cannabis.
Every 30 seconds, an accidental poisoning is reported in the United States and Europe. More than 800,000 children are rushed to a hospital with symptoms of poisoning. Of these, 100,000 are actually hospitalized. In Europe alone, 3,000 young children die each year from medicine or household chemical poisoning, and children under six account for the majority of all poisoning accidents.
When selecting packaging materials and components for solid oral drugs, drug manufacturers (and now cannabis processors) must balance the needs of both children and adults. Under the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970, manufacturers must design packages that help protect children from potentially toxic prescription drugs and make sure that adults who have limited dexterity can use the packages properly. Devising such a package isn’t always a scientific endeavor: manufacturers must base their selections on unpredictable factors like marketplace opinions and child testers. They are also burdened by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which hopes to eliminate child poisonings through regulation but offers manufacturers little guidance in package selection.
To comply with state guidelines, cannabis companies must ensure that their packages are tamper-proof, child-resistant, and within accordance of their local laws. Unfortunately, because the laws are constantly changing, businesses are forced to keep up with the perpetual tweaks made to remain in compliance and to protect the safety and security of the general public.
Designers of child-resistant packaging must always work against the paradox that a package that is difficult for a child to open can often be difficult for the adult patient it is intended to treat. In fact, up to 90 percent of adults struggle to open child-resistant packaging, according to a report in the journal of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
While there’s no consistent set of guidelines for cannabis packaging, there are resources available that help maintain the brand’s look and feel while following state rules and requirements.
Assurpack, Locked4Kids, and CoolJarz are but just a few of the firms that have formed to assist cannabis brand owners with state rules and regulations of child-resistant packaging. For example, cities and counties can have more stringent cannabis packaging restrictions than the state of California in general. Recreational packaging laws in Washington and Colorado also vary greatly, causing mass customization across state lines as brands now grow nationally.
Dixie is a solid example. Working closely with a pharmaceutical and consumer product packaging industry expert, Dixie leveraged years of experience to create child-resistant packaging for their “Toasted Rooster” and “Crispy Kraken” chocolate bars. Lindsey Topping, Dixie’s director of marketing, asserted that their multi-state, child-resistant solution remained true to the Dixie brand.
It’s in the industry’s best interest not to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it should take the best practices that already exist from relevant sectors (pharmaceuticals, cosmetics) and utilize them. The companies that stay true to their brand while adhering to state regulations will rise above the rest.
The onus is on cannabis brands to create safe, consistent products in the most effective child-resistant packages available. It’s on the CPSC to do a better job showing people how to use child-resistant packaging and explaining why it’s important to put all medications away after use. The only way to protect children is to teach adults how to properly use child-resistant packages, but the bottom line is that no package is 100 percent safe.