Last updated: October 2018
Suggested citation: Scollo, M. & Hippolyte, D. 12A.0 Introduction and rationale for health warnings. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2018. Available from: http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/a12-1-0-introduction-and-rationale
Mandated health warnings on tobacco packaging are a highly cost-effective way to:
Requiring such warnings on every package ensures that smokers and potential smokers see the warnings every time they are about to purchase a tobacco product, and every time they handle it. A 20-per-day smoker would be exposed to a health warning about 7000 times each year.
Pictorial warnings should allow important information about tobacco products to be conveyed to and understood by children and others with limited literacy.
Experience in designing, evaluating and upgrading consumer product information for tobacco products both in Australia and elsewhere indicates that the content, style and presentation of package warnings can greatly affect how noticeable and how memorable they are, and the extent to which consumers understand, believe and feel empowered to act upon the information they contain.
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (the Convention) contains provisions relevant to packaging and labelling of tobacco products under Article 11.i The Convention is an international treaty that provides a global policy framework for Parties to implement strong measures against the death and disease caused by smoking.
Under Article 11, Parties to the Convention are required to ensure that each package of tobacco products carries health warnings that:
In 2008, the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco adopted Guidelines intended to assist Parties to meet their obligations under Article 11ii. The Guidelines include a number of key recommendations regarding health warning design including that health warnings:
More and more countries are moving to pictorial warnings, with large and extremely potent images required in an increasing number of jurisdictions. It is expected that this trend will continue as parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control move towards implementation of Article 11.
i WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, opened for signature 16 June 2003, 2302 UNTS 166 (entered into force 27 February 2005) (FCTC) Available from: http://www.who.int/tobacco/framework/WHO_FCTC_english.pdf
ii Decisions of the Third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Durban, South Africa, 17–22 November 2008. Document FCTC/COP/3/DIV/3; 16 February 2009, p19. Decision FCTC/COP3(10)–Guidelines for implementation of Article 11. Available from: http://apps.who.int/gb/fctc/PDF/cop3/FCTC_COP3_DIV3-en.pdf.