Warning Labels

Warnings on tobacco products inform people of the health risks of smoking. They can help deter young people from taking up smoking and also help smokers to quit. However, to be effective, written warnings must be in large, clear text that stands out from the rest of the pack design. Pictorial warnings are more effective than text-only warnings and standardised packaging makes both types of warning more prominent.

More than 100 countries –  have passed legislation requiring pictorial warnings.

In the UK, “light” and “mild” descriptors have been banned since 2003, and pictorial health warnings have been compulsory since October 2008. Since 20 May 2016 all cigarettes manufactured for sale  throughout the European Union are now required to include pictorial warnings as a result of the Revised EU Tobacco Products Directive 2014   Annex II of the Directive includes the library of pictorial warnings.

Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires nations that have ratified the treaty to ban the use of misleading descriptors such as “light” and “mild”, and introduce health warnings taking up a minimum of 30% of the main display area of the packaging. Formal guidelines were adopted at the Conference of the Parties in November 2008.

Cigarette Package Health Warnings – International Status Report

This report provides an international overview, ranking 205 countries/jurisdictions based on warning size, as well as listing those that have finalised requirements for picture warnings. Canadian Cancer Society, 5th ed. Oct. 2016      

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EU Tobacco Products Directive – list of pictorial health warnings

By May 2017 picture warnings will be required to cover the top 65% of the front and back of all cigarette packs sold in the EU. Library of picture warnings  

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Australia: New tobacco graphic health warnings

Australia was the first country in the world to require standardised packaging of tobacco products, prohibiting company logos and colours.  The law, which took effect from 1 December 2012, also requires enlarged pictorial health warnings on both sides of the pack. Tobacco plain packaging and health warnings  

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Guidelines on packaging and labelling of tobacco products

At its third session in November 2008, the Conference of the Parties (COP) adopted guidelines for implementation of Article 11 of the WHO FCTC on “Packaging and labelling of Tobacco Products” (decision FCTC/COP3(10)). Guidelines  

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Packaging and Labelling: The FCTC Commitments

This briefing summarises the requirements of Parties under Article 11 of the FCTC to adopt health warnings and to ensure that packaging does not promote tobacco products by false, misleading or deceptive means. FCTC Commitments  

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