Report:  Graphic Cigarette Warnings Spread Worldwide

November 14, 2012


Consumers around the world are learning the deadly truth about smoking thanks to the growing adoption of large, graphic cigarette warnings.

Sixty-three countries and territories now require graphic warnings, an 85 percent increase since 2010, according to a report released today by the Canadian Cancer Society.

Altogether, these countries have more than 40 percent of the world’s population.  A few countries on the list, including the United States, are still implementing their graphic warning requirements. 


Key findings of the report include:

  • 47 countries and territories require graphic warnings covering at least 50 percent of the front and back of the cigarette pack.

  • 18 countries require graphic warnings covering more than 50 percent of the package front and back.

  • Australia now has the largest cigarette warnings in the world at 82.5 percent of the package front and back (75 percent front, 90 percent back).  Australia is also enhancing the impact of its warnings by implementing the world’s first law requiring that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging, free of colorful logos and other branding.

  • Uruguay has the world’s second largest cigarette warnings at 80 percent of the package front and back.  Sri Lanka is working to implement similarly-sized warnings in the face of strong tobacco industry opposition.

Canada in 2001 became the first country to implement graphic warnings and recently increased its warning size to 75 percent of the package front and back.

“The worldwide trend for larger, picture health warnings is growing and unstoppable, with many more countries in the process of developing such requirements,” the report concludes.

In the U.S., a 2009 federal law requires graphic cigarette warnings covering 50 percent of the front and back of the back.  However, tobacco industry legal challenges have held up implementation.  One federal appeals court upheld the graphic warning requirement, while another struck down the warnings developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  A final decision could come from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Studies around the world have shown that large, graphic warnings are most effective at informing consumers about the health risks of smoking, discouraging children and other nonsmokers from starting to smoke, and motivating smokers to quit. Research has found that pack-a-day smokers could be exposed to cigarette health warnings more than 7,000 times per year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – the world’s first international health treaty – requires effective health warnings on tobacco products and recommends that they cover at least 50 percent of principal display areas.