"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).
† 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.
- 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