Ukraine adopts pictorial health warnings on tobacco products

On 30 March 2011, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine announced the adoption of pictorial health warnings on tobacco products, to be introduced on 30 September 2012.

Health warnings that combine words and pictures are one of the most cost-effective ways to increase public awareness of the serious health risks of tobacco use and to reduce tobacco consumption. As a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Ukraine has pledged that it would implement a range of measures, including adopting strong health warnings on tobacco products.

Ukraine joins eleven other countries in the WHO European Region that are using or have approved the use of pictorial warnings (Belgium, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom). Additionally, the Senate of Kazakhstan voted for the use of pictorial warnings in late March, and final approval is pending endorsement by the President.

Text warnings are not effective enough

The tobacco industry spends millions of dollars marketing its products, designing attractive packages to lure new users and keep them using tobacco. Warnings that graphically show the terrible effects of tobacco are more visible on packages than text-only warnings and communicate health risks to those who cannot read. They compete more successfully with the rest of the package design, standing out and sending a clear message.

In the recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2010 in Ukraine, data showed that 96.6% of current smokers of manufactured cigarettes had noticed the health warnings on cigarette packages during the past 30 days. Of these, 57.9% thought about quitting because of the textual warning label. The introduction of pictorial warnings has great potential to motivate users to quit and to reduce the appeal of tobacco to those who have not started.