Warnings & Packaging

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Call To Action

Governments should legislate removal of all trappings of tobacco promotion on cigarette packs and all other tobacco product wrapping, and follow Australia’s lead in introducing plain/standardized packaging.

Number of rounds of graphic warnings, 2015

Warnings on the packaging of all tobacco products have progressed rapidly from small and weak text warnings 40 years ago to the introduction of strong graphic warnings, first adopted by Canada in 2001. Currently, graphic warnings have been adopted by about one third of countries, with several being in their 3rd round of such warnings, so that smokers do not become desensitized to familiar messages.

Warning messages on cigarette packages deliver important information directly to smokers. The message is repeated and reinforced every time a smoker reaches for a cigarette.

In one of its strongest provisions, Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires parties, within three years, to require tobacco product warnings that cover at least 30%, and preferably 50%, of the visible area on a cigarette pack. Warnings should be extended to all forms of combustible and smokeless tobacco.

Plain, standardized packaging, with prohibition of all industry logos and color, is a major battleground between the tobacco industry and governments. Australia was the first country to adopt legislation to require plain packaging, in the face of bitter opposition from the tobacco industry; in spite of legal threats stemming from purported commitments to international economic agreements, plain packaging has been introduced successfully. In contrast to the tobacco industry’s initial arguments, consumer transaction times to purchase tobacco products and product selection errors have actually decreased or stayed the same.


2006: ROUND 1
Graphic warnings introduced covering 30% of front and 90% of back

2012: ROUND 2
1st country to introduce plain/standardized packaging. Graphic warnings increased to cover 75% of front and 90% of back


2001: ROUND 1
1st country to introduce graphic warnings covering 50% of principal display space

2012: ROUND 2
Graphic warnings increased to cover 75% of principal display space


Australian adult smoking prevalence fell by 15%,
from 15.1% to 12.8%, in the second half of 2013,
a year after plain/standardized packaging was introduced in December 2012.

Label characteristics

Percentage of Parties which have implemented the WHO FCTC labeling provisions under Article 11 by 2014 (and some have gone above and beyond the FCTC requirements)


now live in countries with best-practice packet warning labels.

“IMPERIAL TOBACCO DOES NOT BELIEVE THERE IS ANY CREDIBLE OR RELIABLE EVIDENCE that standardized tobacco packaging will achieve the Government’s stated objectives of reducing smoking prevalence among young people or assisting smokers who have, or are trying to, quit.” –Imperial Tobacco response to the Chantler Review on standardized packaging of tobacco products., UK, 2014

“The tobacco industry uses all elements of the pack, including the outer film, tear-tape, inner frame and pack inserts to promote the product. ONLY STANDARDIZED (PLAIN) PACKAGING WILL STOP THE PACK BEING USED TO PROMOTE THE PRODUCT.” – Crawford Moodie and Gerard Hastings, University of Stirling, Scotland, 2010

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