12A.6World Health Organization recommendations on health warnings

Last updated: July 2019     

Suggested citation:Scollo, M., Hippolyte, D. & Miller, C. 12A.6 World Health Organization recommendations on health warnings. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2019. Available from:https://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-12-tobacco-products/attachment-12-1-health-warnings/12a-6-who-recommendations-on-health-warnings

Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) i states:

Each Party shall, within a period of three years after entry into force of this Convention for that Party, adopt and implement, in accordance with its national law, effective measures to ensure that:


... Each unit packet and package of tobacco products and any outside packaging and labelling of such products also carry health warnings describing the harmful effects of tobacco use, and may include other appropriate messages. These warnings and messages: i Shall be approved by the competent national authority; ii shall be rotating; iii shall be large, clear, visible and legible; iv should be 50% or more of the principle display areas but shall be no less than 30% of the principle display areas; v may be in the form of pictures or pictograms.

Australia was the lead facilitating country for the drafting of guidelines to assist parties in meeting their obligations under Article 11 of the WHO FCTC. The draft guidelines for Article 11 were made available on 31 August 2008 1 and were adopted by Parties to the WHO FCTC at the third session of the Conference of the Parties held in South Africa in November 2008. 2

The World Health Organization continues to promote health warnings supported by graphic imagery 3 and several research groups and international agencies have produced technical manuals to guide policy-makers wishing to pursue the WHO recommendations. 4–6


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/fctc/text_download/en/index.html

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1. Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Elaboration of guidelines for implementation of Article 11 of the Convention. World Health Organization, 2008. Available from: http://www.who.int/gb/fctc/PDF/cop3/FCTC_COP3_7-en.pdf.

2. Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Guidelines for implementation of Article 11: Guidelines on packaging and labelling of tobacco products. World Health Organization, 2008. Available from: http://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_11/en/index.html.

3. World Health Organization. World No Tobacco Day 2009 theme: tobacco health warnings. Geneva: World Health Organisation, 2009 viewed March 2009. Available from: http://www.who.int/tobacco/communications/events/wntd/2009/en/index.html.

4. Hammond D. Tobacco labelling & packaging toolkit: a guide to FCTC Article 11. Waterloo, ON: Tobacco Labelling Resource Centre, 2009. Available from: http://www.tobaccolabels.ca/toolkit/.

5. Selin H. Tobacco packaging and labelling: technical guide. International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and Tobacco-Free Union, 2010. Available from: https://www.theunion.org/what-we-do/publications/technical/tobacco-packaging-and-labelling-technical-guide.

6. International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project. FCTC Article 11 Tobacco warning labels: evidence and recommendations from the ITC Project. Buffalo, New York: Roswell Park Cancer Institute, 2009. Available from: https://www.itcproject.org/files/ITC_Tobacco_Labels_Bro_V3.pdf.