What are health warnings?
Under the Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011, all tobacco products for sale in Australia must display health warnings that:
- cover most of the packaging
- include text and graphics as set out in the standard
- are formatted in a certain way.
Health warnings include:
- statements – such as 'Smoking harms unborn babies'
- graphics – photos that are related to the warning statements
- explanatory messages – more detail about the warning statements
- information messages – a fact about the harmful effects of smoking.
The standard explains how to display health warnings on the packaging of all tobacco products, including:
- cigarettes, cigars and loose-leaf tobacco
- bidi and smokeless tobacco (tobacco for sucking, chewing or snuffing).
Cigarette packets must:
- display a statement and graphic that cover at least 75% of the front
- display a statement, graphic and explanatory message that cover at least 90% of the back
- display an information message on one side
- use 2 sets of health warnings on rotation every 12 months.
Why are health warnings important?
Health warnings aim to:
- give a confronting message to smokers about the harmful effects of tobacco
- encourage smokers to quit every time they reach for a smoke
- discourage people from taking up smoking.
Health warnings are part of Australia’s tobacco control activities – policies and programs that aim to reduce smoking rates and tobacco-related harm in our community. Read about our review of tobacco control legislation.
How is the health warning standard enforced?
The standard is enforced by:
- the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
- state and territory fair trading agencies.
If tobacco products don't meet the standard, the enforcement agencies may:
- take legal action against the producers
- issue a penalty
- recall the products.
Other government agencies also contribute to the standard:
- The Treasury administers the standard.
- Health develops policy on tobacco health warnings. The standard is based on our research and policy work.
Do health warnings work?
Yes. Research shows that larger health warnings, including graphic health warnings, have a greater impact on people.
To find out more, take a look at our market research reports on graphic health warnings.
Meeting the health warning standard
If you’re a tobacco supplier and need some guidance:
- download the supplier guide to tobacco health warnings by the ACCC
- view examples of health warnings in our plain packaging guide
- take a look at our brochure on tobacco health warnings.
If you need high resolution graphics, you can contact our health warnings team to get a DVD of the image files.
If you have any questions, contact the ACCC’s Product Safety Australia.
Did you know? You also need to meet tobacco plain packaging laws.
If you’re a retailer, you’re responsible for making sure the tobacco products you are selling meet the standard. You should always:
- insist that any tobacco products you order meet the standard
- confirm with your supplier in writing if you’re not sure a product meets the standard.
For information about the standard, take a look at the guidance for suppliers in the previous section. If you have any questions, contact the ACCC’s Product Safety Australia.
Make a complaint
If you think a product is in breach of the tobacco health warnings standard, contact the ACCC’s Product Safety Australia.