Graphic warning on cigarette packs gains support

by Chito A. Chavez
November 4, 2014

Opposition from the tobacco industry has not deterred the adoption of graphic health warnings (GHW) on cigarette packs, according to the October 2014 study conducted by the Canadian Cancer Society.

The “Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report’’ indicated that in the past two years the number of countries with GHWs jumped to 77, up from 55 in 2012 and 34 in 2010.  The number of countries now accounts for 49 percent of the world’s population).

“This international momentum is unstoppable, as governments seek to comply with their obligations under the WHO FCTC,” Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, project director for the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) said. He was referring to the global tobacco treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).


At present Thailand has the world’s largest GHWs covering 85 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs. The second largest is that in Australia, having an average of 82.5 percent (75 percent front and 90 percent back) in addition to requiring plain or standardized packaging since 2012.

Top 65% of package

Last April 3, 2014, a new European Union (EU) directive was approved, requiring GHWs to cover the top 65 percent of the package front and back effective May 20, 2016.


The growing global trend, Dorotheo said is a clear recognition of the effectiveness of GHWs.

“Some of the images include a diseased mouth, corrupted lungs, a bedridden and suffering lung cancer patient, or an innocent little child breathing in secondhand smoke,’’ Dorotheo added.


Graphic health warnings are really a cost-effective measure in curbing smoking especially with those who are just thinking about giving it a try, and I’m ecstatic everybody has caught on the so-called trend,” Emer Rojas, Global Cancer Ambassador and president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) said.

He added that GHWs are really instrumental particularly in those places where illiteracy is high and people couldn’t really read and understand the text-only warnings on the packet.

“Tobacco companies use their packets to advertise and promote their brands, so why not use the same medium to warn the public about its adverse health consequences?” Rojas added.

Another trend that’s gaining momentum is the implementation of plain packaging on cigar boxes, which is now being practiced in Australia.

The aim of that is to make the packs less appealing to the eyes, increase the effectiveness of health warnings, and reduce deception and eventually tobacco use.

“In Thailand, the courts gave the tobacco companies 90 days to comply with the new law. Amazingly, they were able to comply in just 60 days. Come to think of it, some of the cigarettes sold in Thailand are coming from the Philippines,” Rojas noted.


The local Graphic Health Warning Law requires the tobacco industry eight months to empty their old inventory on top of the 12-month period given to them to start producing packs with GHWs.

Anti-smoking advocates in the Quezon City government gave full support to the less appealing packaging of cigarettes and larger GHW to deter the youth from taking up smoking and to discourage current smokers to give up the vice.

“We need a law that would discourage people to smoke cigarettes since it puts the individual’s health at great risk,’’ Quezon City Councilor Victor Ferrer Jr. said.

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