The tobacco package is an essential communication
vehicle for the tobacco industry “Our final communica-
tion vehicle with our
Tobacco companies depend on package design to build brand recognition smokers is the pack
and promote sales, especially because advertising for tobacco is becoming
itself. in the absence
increasingly limited in many markets.
of any other marketing
• Packaging establishes brand imagery that is often completely opposite to messages, our packag-
the realities and dangers associated with tobacco product use.2 Tobacco ing… is the sole com-
companies create brand imagery which promotes ideals of status, wealth, municator of our brand
sex appeal, glamour, slimness, manhood, athleticism and health, among
essence. Put another
way: When you don’t
• For the smoker, especially the teenage smoker, the tobacco product pack
represents a badge that makes a statement about how they want others to have anything else, our
see them.3 packaging is our mar-
—executive of the Phillip
Pictorial warning labels effectively communicate the risks Morris Company, a transna-
tional tobacco company.1
of tobacco use
Control over cigarette packaging is critical to tobacco control efforts. Cigarette
packs are effective mediums for broadcasting 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 deci-
sions about smoking.4,5 Large and graphic warning labels can motivate smok-
ers to quit and discourage nonsmokers from starting.6
• 84% of smokers living in Canada, where pictorial warnings are required,
saw health warning labels as a source of health information, compared with
47% smokers living in the U.S., where only text-only labels are required.7,8
• After Brazil introduced new pictorial warnings in 2002, 73% of smokers
said they approved of them, 54% said they had changed their opinion about
the health consequences of smoking, and 67% said the new warnings made
them want to quit.9
• Following the introduction of Australia’s graphic health warning labels,
adolescent experimental and established smokers were more likely to think
about quitting, and intentions to smoke were lower among those students
who discussed the new warning labels.10
Warning label, Singapore
1 Warning labels: essential Facts October 2008 www.tobaccofreecenter.org
Warning LabeLs: essential facts
Components of an effective warning label
COMPONENT DESCRIPTION IMPACT
Location Labels should appear on principal If the message is in a prominent location, it is more likely to be
display areas (front and back—the noticed.
largest panels of the package).
Size Should cover 50% of the package’s Large messages are more likely to be noticed.
principal display area, but no less
than 30%. Label effectiveness increases with size.
Large labels provoke emotional responses and increase
motivation to quit.
Pictorials Pictures and/or pictograms Photos and strong graphics help smokers visualize the nature
should illustrate the ill-effects of a tobacco-caused disease better than words alone.
of tobacco use.
Pictures are more likely to draw attention and are more likely
to be remembered when an individual makes decisions about
whether or not to smoke or cut back on smoking.
Pictures are especially important in regions with low literacy
or where research shows smokers are ignoring text-only
Pictorial warnings are likely to reach children and adolescents,
especially the children of smokers, who are particularly
Color, Use full color. Maximizes visibility and ease of comprehension.
Font Contrast colors with the
background and the text.
Rotation Multiple health warnings and Prevents overexposure.
messages can appear on all tobacco
products concurrently or be rotated
Text List risk factors by highlighting Messages highlight the harmful effects of tobacco and provide
harmful effects and impact of important public health information to the public which may
exposure to tobacco. not be otherwise accessible.
Include the magnitude of specific Messages eliciting unfavorable emotional associations about
risks. tobacco use are more believable and convincing.
Provide cessation advice.
Identify the addictive nature of
Elicit unfavorable emotional
association with tobacco use.
Language Label should be in the country’s Messages in all principal languages ensures a broader reach.
Source attribution Label should identify a source Depending on the culture, attribution can add credibility to the
(such as a national health message.
authority) that recommends
the health messages (such as a
Minister of Health).
2 Warning labels: essential Facts October 2008 www.tobaccofreecenter.org
Warning LabeLs: essential facts
The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework
Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires effective
health warning labels11
The FCTC, the world’s first global public health treaty, establishes a policy
framework aimed to reduce the devastating health and economic impacts of
tobacco.12 Article 11 of the FCTC requires Parties to the FCTC to implement
effective measures to warn against the harmful impact of tobacco use on
all tobacco product packaging within three years after ratifying the FCTC. Warning label, Belgium
Implementation of a pictorial warning label policy presents no financial cost
to governments; fees are borne by tobacco companies.
Global progress on the implementation of warning
Governments have made extraordinary progress in improving tobacco warn-
ing labels by implementing measures as outlined by the WHO FCTC.
Jurisdictions which have implemented pictorial health warnings as of Octo-
ber 1, 2008, include:
• Australia • Chile • New Zealand • United
• Belgium • Egypt • Panama Kingdom
• Brazil • Hong Kong • Romania • Uruguay
(China) • Venezuela Warning label,Thailand
• Brunei • Singapore
• Canada • Jordan • Thailand
• The tobacco package is an essential communication vehicle for the
tobacco industry; tobacco companies depend on tobacco package design
to build brand recognition and promote sales.14,15
• Pictorial health warning labels communicate the risks of tobacco use.
Effective warning labels increase knowledge about risks associated with
smoking and can decrease intentions to smoke among adolescents16 and
persuade smokers to quit.17,18
• Graphic warning labels have a greater impact than text-only labels and can
be recognized by low-literacy audiences and children—two vulnerable Warning label, New Zealand
• Effective warning labels are large, clear, rotating, cover at least 50% of the
total tobacco pack, and consist of both text and graphic images.21
• Parties to the FCTC are required to implement effective measures to
warn against the harmful impact of tobacco use on all tobacco product
packaging within three years of ratifying the FCTC.22
3 Warning labels: essential Facts October 2008 www.tobaccofreecenter.org
Warning LabeLs: essential facts
1 Hulit M. Presentation at the May 17, 1994 Corporate Affairs 10 White V, Webster B, and Wakefield M. Do graphic health
Conference, Manila: Marketing Issues. Philip Morris [internal warning labels have an impact on adolescents’ smoking-relat-
industry document]. Bates No. 2504015017/5042. Available ed beliefs and behaviours? Addiction. 2008;103: 1562-1571
from: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/jga42e00. 11 World Health Organization (WHO). WHO Framework Con-
2 Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer. Health Warnings vention on Tobacco Control. Geneva: WHO; 2003.
and Contents Labelling on Tobacco Products. Report prepared 12 Framework Convention Alliance. What is the Framework
for the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy Tobacco Task Convention on Tobacco Control? Available from: http://www.
Force on Tobacco Health Warnings on Content Labelling in fctc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8
Australia; 1992. &Itemid=5.
3 Cunningham R, Kyle K. The case for plain packaging. Tobac- 13 Hammond D. FCTC Article 11 Fact Sheet. Health Warnings
co Control. 1995;4: 80-86. on Tobacco Packages: Summary of evidence and legal chal-
4 Hammond D, Fong G, Borland R, Cummings M, McNeill A, lenges. Waterloo: University of Waterloo; 2008 [cited on 2008
Driezen P. Text and Graphic Warnings on Cigarette Packages: April 9]. Available online: http://www.igloo.org/community.
Findings from the International Tobacco Control Four Country igloo?r0=community-download&r0_script=/scripts/docu-
Study. Amer J Prev Med. 2007; 32(3):210-217. ment/download.script&r0 pathinfo=%2F%7Bf0ce20c6-7a3c-
5 Hammond D. Tobacco Labeling Toolkit: Implementation, 409a-a5c9-15e2b251a129%7D%2Ffactshee%2Farticl~2&r
Chapter 5. Waterloo: University of Waterloo; 2008 [cited on 0_output=xml
2008 April 9]. Available online: http://www.igloo.org/tobac- 14 Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer. 1992.
co_labelling/download-nocache/tobaccolab/iuatld_lab~5 15 Cunningham R, Kyle K, 1995.
6 Hammond D, Fong GT, McDonald PW, Cameron R, Brown 16 White et al, 2008.
KS. Impact of the graphic Canadian warning labels on adult
smoking behaviour. Tobacco Control. 2003; 12(4):391-395. 17 Hammond et al, 2008.
7 Hammond D, Fong GT, Borland R, McNeill A, Cummings 18 Hammond, Tobacco Labeling Toolkit: Implementation, Chap-
KM, Hastings G. Effectiveness of cigarette warning labels in ter 5, 2008.
informing smokers about the risks of smoking: findings from 19 Hammond et al. 2006.
the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Four Country Survey. 20 Hammond et al. 2007.
Tob Control. 2006;15(Suppl III):iii19–iii25.
21 WHO FCTC, 2003.
8 Hammond et al, 2007.
22 WHO FCTC, 2003.
9 Costa e Silva VL. Presentation to EU Commission on enforce-
ment of health warnings in Brazil. Brussels 2002.
4 Warning labels: essential Facts October 2008 www.tobaccofreecenter.org