Do cigarette health warning labels comply with requirements: A 14-country study

Joanna E. Cohen, Jennifer Brown, Carmen Washington, Kevin Welding, Jacqueline Ferguson, Katherine C. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global health treaty ratified by over 175 countries, calls on countries to ensure that tobacco packages carry health warning labels (HWLs) describing the harmful effects of tobacco use. We assessed the extent of compliance with 14 countries' HWL requirements. Unique cigarette packs were purchased in 2013 using a systematic protocol in 12 distinct neighborhoods within three of the ten most populous cities in the 14 low- and middle-income countries with the greatest number (count) of smokers. HWL compliance codebooks were developed for each country based on the details of country-specific HWL requirements, with up to four common compliance indicators assessed for each country (location, size, label elements, text size). Packs (n = 1859) were double coded for compliance. Compliance was examined by country and pack characteristics, including parent company and brand family. Overall, 72% of coded cigarette packs were compliant with all relevant compliance indicators, ranging from 17% in the Philippines to 94% in Mexico. Compliance was highest for location of the warning (ranging from 75%–100%) and lowest for warning size (ranging from 46%–99%). Compliance was higher for packs bought in high SES neighborhoods, and varied by parent company and brand family. This multi-country study found at least one pack in every country – and many packs in some countries – that were not compliant with key requirements for health warning labels in the country of purchase. Non-compliance may be exacerbating health disparities. Tobacco companies should be held accountable for complying with country HWL requirements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-134
Number of pages7
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Graphic
  • Pictorial
  • Policy
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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