Health Warning Labels

The vast majority of countries across the globe require large health warnings on the front and back of cigarette packs. While warning sizes vary from country to country, most countries today have warnings that cover at least 30% to 50% of the front and back of the pack. A growing number of countries also require graphic, or pictorial, warnings in additional to textual warnings. For example, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Egypt, Jordan, Latvia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Peru, Romania, Singapore, Turkey and the UK have all mandated pictorial health warnings. Most countries also mandate that the warning messages on either the front or the back of the pack rotate on a regular basis, meaning that tobacco product packaging must carry several alternating messages. Many countries also require warnings or additional information on the side panels of the cigarette packs. 

The purpose of health warning requirements is to ensure that consumers are warned about the health effects of smoking.

Our View

Warning smokers and nonsmokers about the serious adverse health effects of smoking is a fundamental objective of tobacco regulation and has been a core component of government tobacco policy for decades in many countries. We support this policy. In fact, we are such strong supporters of health warnings that we place them on our packs voluntarily in countries, including several in Africa, where they are not required by law. 

While we generally support health warnings, we do not support warnings that do not depict the actual health effects of smoking or that vilify tobacco companies and their employees. 

We also do not support excessive or unreasonable 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 valuable intellectual property, and using warnings for the purpose of debasing or overwhelming that property as opposed to informing consumers is inappropriate. 

In fact, scientific studies and courts that have examined this issue have concluded that excessively increasing the size of health warnings does not reduce tobacco consumption. 

For these reasons, and because they infringe our intellectual property rights, leaving insufficient space for our distinctive trademarks and pack designs, we oppose excessively large health warnings.

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