International Issues

Warning Labels

"Health warnings on tobacco product packaging are critical to any effective tobacco control strategy. They increase public awareness of the serious health risks of tobacco use and help to ensure that the packaging tells the truth about the deadly product within."
— Showing the truth, saving lives: the case for pictorial health warnings, WHO 2009

"Showing the truth, saving lives"

Large, picture-based health warning labels on tobacco packages are an essential component of a national strategy to reduce tobacco use.

Tobacco companies depend on package design to build brand recognition and promote sales. Packaging establishes brand imagery that is often completely opposite to the realities and dangers associated with tobacco product use.

Control over tobacco packaging is critical to tobacco control efforts. Tobacco packs can effectively broadcast messages about the harmful impact of tobacco use.

Research shows that effective warning labels increase knowledge about risks associated with smoking and can influence future decisions about smoking. Large and graphic warning labels can motivate smokers to quit, discourage nonsmokers from starting, and keep ex-smokers from starting again.

Studies have also found that warning labels are most effective at communicating the health risks of tobacco use when they contain both pictures and words and are large and in color. Warning labels also must be rotated periodically to avoid over exposure.

Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires Parties to the treaty to adopt and implement large, clear, and rotating health warnings on all tobacco products within three years of FCTC ratification.

Graphic Health Warning Labels by Country/Jurisdiction by WHO Region

At least† 89 countries/jurisdictions have finalized‡ requirements for graphic health warning labels printed on packages of cigarettes and, in some cases, other tobacco products (such as cigars, waterpipes, smokeless tobacco products, and loose tobacco).

AFRICA
Burkina Faso
Chad
Kenya
Madagascar
Mauritius
Namibia*
Seychelles

AMERICAS
Argentina
Bolivia
Brazil
Canada
Cayman Islands*
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Ecuador
El Salvador
Honduras
Jamaica
Mexico
Panama
Peru
Suriname
Trinidad and Tobago*
Uruguay
Venezuela

EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN
Bahrain
Djibouti
Egypt
Iran
Jordan
Kuwait
Oman
Pakistan
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
Yemen

EUROPE
Armenia*
Belarus*
Belgium
Denmark
France

Guernsey
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Italy*
Jersey
Kazakhstan
Kyrgyzstan
Latvia
Liechtenstein*
Lithuania*
Macedonia*
Malta
Montenegro*
Norway
Portugal*
Romania
Russia
Spain
Switzerland
Turkey
Turkmenistan*
Ukraine
United Kingdom

SOUTHEAST ASIA
Bangladesh
India
Indonesia
Myanmar*
Nepal
Sri Lanka
Thailand

WESTERN PACIFIC
Australia
Brunei Darussalam
Cook Islands*
Fiji
Hong Kong
Macau
Malaysia
Mongolia
New Zealand
Philippines
Republic of Korea*
Singapore
Solomon Islands*
Taiwan
Vietnam

Notes
† This list is complete and correct to the best of our knowledge as of the date below.
‡ "Finalized" indicates that all requirements and specifications necessary for implementation have been developed and approved. For example: the images and accompanying text to be used; the size, color, and placement of the image and text to be printed on the package; and the number and rotation schedule of the warnings.
* Fact sheets in progress.

References
- Canadian Cancer Society, Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report, Fourth Edition, September 2014.
- Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Legal Website. Available at: www.tobaccocontrollaws.org

Last Updated: May 3, 2016