The tobacco pack is a critical advertising vehicle for tobacco companies. It is referred to as a “badge” product because of its close identification with the image of the smoker. Brands can convey sophistication, toughness, rebelliousness, femininity or masculinity, and a whole host of other images. These images are particularly important to adolescent smokers, who are still trying to establish their identity.
Conversely, tobacco packages can be used to discourage tobacco use, through package health warnings or through plain packaging.
Contrary to popular opinion, many smokers are not aware of the risks of tobacco use. They may know that tobacco “is bad for them,” but few realize the magnitude of risk relative to other behaviors (like eating junk food, for example), or their likelihood of dying from a tobacco-caused disease (half of all smokers die from smoking). Few smokers can name specific diseases, other than lung cancer, caused by smoking.
Experience in Brazil, Canada and other countries shows that strong health warnings on tobacco packages – particularly warnings with images – can be an important source of information for young smokers, and that warnings increase smokers’ knowledge of risk and their motivation to try to quit smoking.
For more information and images on package health warnings in the Americas and the world, please visit our packaging and labeling page.