New research shows that health warnings don’t work

Tuesday 27 October 1998

Press release – Embargoed: 00.01 – 27 October 1998

A survey, commissioned jointly by ASH and two European tobacco control organisations, has shown that the health warnings on tobacco products are largely ignored by smokers because they are difficult to see and tend to blend in with the packaging design. The position of the warning at the bottom of cigarette packs also makes them less likely to be noticed.

However, the survey also revealed that bigger, bolder warnings, coupled with strong anti-smoking mass media campaigns would be more likely to change smoking behaviour.[1]

The survey, which is being launched today in Brussels, also shows that smokers are confused about what’s in tobacco smoke and are unaware of the health effects of tobacco components.

Amanda Sandford, Research Manager at ASH said, “Tobacco companies have been allowed to get away with minimising the legibility and impact of health warnings. They have also conned smokers into thinking that low tar cigarettes are less harmful than regular brands by using words such as “low” and “mild” to suggest an implied health benefit. The health warning system has clearly failed to adequately inform people of the risks of smoking and needs to be radically overhauled.”

ASH is calling on the Government and European Union to revise the current laws on health warnings and tar yields so that smokers are given accurate information about the contents of tobacco and more information about the dangers of smoking.

[1] “An evaluation of health warnings on tobacco packets.” Research conducted for ASH by MORI.

The research was conducted among 5 focus groups of the following age ranges: 13-15,17-19, 25-34, 35-54 and 55+. The groups of teenagers included both smokers and non-smokers while the older groups consisted of smokers. This project was part of a joint initiative with two European partners: Comité National Contre le Tabagisme (CNCT) in France and Fondation contre les Affections Respiratoires et pour l’Education à la Santé (FARES) in Belgium.


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