Warn about the dangers of tobacco
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)
- Enact and enforce effective pictorial health warnings on all tobacco product packaging in accordance with Article 11 of the WHO FCTC and its guidelines
- Strengthen public awareness of the health risks, including the addictive characteristics of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke in accordance with Article 12 of the WHO FCTC and its guidelines.
- Guidelines for implementation of Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
- Article 12 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
Tobacco Health Warnings
It is proven that warnings on packaging are an inexpensive and powerful way to show the truth about tobacco use. Warnings that include images of the harm that tobacco causes are particularly effective at communicating risk and motivating behavioural changes, such as quitting or reducing tobacco consumption. Picture warnings convey a clear and immediate message, even to people who cannot read. They reduce the overall attractiveness of tobacco packages. This is an important function for a product whose new users are typically young and image-and brand-conscious.
Health warnings on tobacco packages that combine text and pictures are one of the most cost-effective ways to increase public awareness of the serious health risks of tobacco use and to reduce tobacco consumption.
Tobacco package health warnings that include images are an essential part of any effective tobacco control strategy because:
- when combined with text they have been shown to be particularly effective in communicating risk and motivating behavioural change
- they are critical in communicating health risks to the large number of people worldwide who cannot read
- they detract from the overall attractiveness of tobacco packaging and thus act as a deterrent to new users, who are often young and image- and brand- conscious
- the cost to governments is minimal
A strong and irrefutable body of evidence has demonstrated that product packaging has traditionally served as one of the tobacco industry’s central vehicles in initiating and maintaining addiction to its lethal products among consumers. Detailed analyses of tobacco industry documents have illustrated that tobacco companies view product packaging as a critical marketing strategy in promoting brand image in order to increase their market share, and that they target vulnerable segments of the population, including women and children. To restrict the ability of the tobacco industry to continue to exploit product packaging in this way, guidelines adopted in 2008 by the Conference of Parties to the WHO FCTC for the implementation of Articles 11 and 13 of the treat recommend that Parties consider the introduction of plain packaging.
The implementation of plain tobacco product packaging, which would eliminate the tobacco industry's ability to place targeted messages and designs on the packages of its products, would increase the impact of health warnings, reduce false and misleading messages that deceive customers into believing that some tobacco products are safer than others, and reduce the attractiveness of products to segments of the population specifically targeted by tobacco companies.
There a number of strategies that can be used to educate the public about the harms of tobacco. Among these are campaigns to counter the pro-tobacco messages put forth by the tobacco industry. Often known as "counter-advertising", these campaigns are typically disseminated via mass media, including print and broadcast media, billboards and other means to reach large groups within a population. Mass-media counter-advertising campaigns have been consistently found to reduce overall tobacco consumption. Mass-media campaigns are a cost-effective way to educate large population groups about the full extent of the risks of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke. Media campaigns can also motivate and inform people on how to quit. Well-executed campaigns can also increase public support for key policy changes such as smoke-free public places.