Article – WHO Argues for Tobacco Labeling

By Linda Casey


The true face of smoking is disease, death and horror – not the glamour and sophistication the pushers in the tobacco industry try to portray

-David Byrne


Life for the tobacco industry has been difficult to say the least. In the 1940’s, business was booming, with a staggering 43% of Americans sparking up cigarettes on a regular basis. Today, that number has plummeted to less that 24%. Yes, obviously the terrible health risks associated with tobacco use are to blame. But how were the consumers informed of these risks? The packaging itself.

Designers, marketers and branding specialists all recognize the inherent power that packaging has. Depending on how the packaging is utilized, it can either build or destroy the reputation of a product. Having to place massive government warnings on your product is one way to ensure that it will rapidly lose popularity… In this case, for the benefit of the consumer’s health.


“We are pleased that more and more people are being adequately warned about the dangers of tobacco use,” says WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, Dr. Ala Alwan. “”Large, graphic health warnings of the sort pioneered by Uruguay, Canada and a handful of other countries are an effective means of reducing tobacco’s appeal”


In recent years, several countries have begun taking additional steps to put pressure on big tobacco. In particular:

  • Australia’s proposed legislation to require that tobacco be sold in plain packaging. This could be a crushing blow, limiting the ability to physically brand the products, making them unappealing in stores.
  • Burkina Faso, Nauru, Pakistan, Peru, Spain and Thailand are among the latest countries to ban smoking in indoor public spaces and the workplace.
  • Twelve more countries raised tobacco taxes to more than 75 percent of the retail price, bringing the total to 27.
  • Three more countries – Chad, Colombia and Syria – banned tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

“At the same time,” says Dr. Ala Alwan, “We can’t be satisfied that the majority of countries are doing nothing or not enough. We urge all countries to follow the best-practices for reducing tobacco consumption.”


Written by TD