Most countries require health warnings on cigarette packs. Warning sizes vary from country to country, but the trend is for large warnings on the front and back of the pack. In the European Union, for example, health warnings must cover 30% of the front and 40% of the back of cigarette packs. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires health warnings that cover, at a minimum, 30% of the front and back of the pack, and recommends warnings covering 50% or more of the front and back of the pack.
Most countries also mandate rotating warning messages, meaning that tobacco product packaging must carry several alternating messages. For example, E.U. legislation provides for a number of different warning messages, including “Smoking Kills,” “Smoking Causes Fatal Lung Cancer,” “Smoking is Highly Addictive, Don’t Start,” “Smoking When Pregnant Harms Your Baby” and “Stopping Smoking Reduces the Risk of Fatal Heart and Lung Diseases.”
A growing number of countries require pictorial or graphic health warnings. These warnings show images of the health effects of smoking or other graphic depictions of health-related messages. Graphic warnings are accompanied with mandated textual warnings. The E.U. warning legislation permits countries to mandate graphic health warnings on the back of the pack and Belgium, the United Kingdom, Latvia and Romania have enacted legislation requiring graphic warnings. Other countries that have adopted graphic warnings include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Peru, Singapore and Turkey.
We support laws mandating health warnings on consumer product packaging. Providing consumers with accurate information about the serious adverse health effects of smoking is a fundamental objective of tobacco regulation and should be a core component of government tobacco policy. In fact, in countries where health warnings are not required, we voluntarily place them on packaging. This is the case in many African countries, where we voluntarily put local language health warnings on cigarette packs even when local laws do not require them.
Because smoking causes a number of diseases, we support laws that mandate that health warnings rotate to allow for several different messages. We also believe that warnings should be legible and clearly distinguished from the trademarks and brand logos of the pack. However, we do not support excessive warning sizes. Warnings that are larger than the trademarks, logos and pack designs impede competition by reducing if not eliminating our ability to distinguish our brands from those of our competitors. Our distinctive trademarks, logos, and pack designs are extremely valuable intellectual property, and using warnings for the purpose of debasing or overwhelming that property as opposed to informing consumers is inappropriate. In fact, we are unaware of any credible evidence that excessive warning sizes better inform people about the dangers of smoking and/or reduce consumption of cigarettes.
We generally defer to the governments on the content of the warnings. We do not, however, support content that does not depict the actual health effects of smoking, or that vilifies tobacco companies and their employees. For example, images of a heart pierced with cigarettes, a dead rat, a baby smoking a cigarette, and a fetus in an ashtray have recently been proposed or mandated as graphic “warnings.” Whether or not they are appropriate for a government-sponsored anti-smoking public relations campaign, such images do not depict actual health effects of smoking or tobacco use, and they are not appropriate as part of a mandated health warning on a tobacco company’s product.