Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Lessons from New Zealand’s introduction of pictorial health warnings on tobacco packaging

Janet Hoek, Nick Wilson, Matthew Allen, Richard Edwards, George Thomson & Judy Li

While international evidence suggests that featuring pictorial health warnings on tobacco packaging is an effective tobacco control intervention, the process used to introduce these new warnings has not been well documented. We examined relevant documents and interviewed officials responsible for this process in New Zealand. We found that, despite tobacco companies’ opposition to pictorial health warnings and the resource constraints facing health authorities, the implementation process was generally robust and successful. Potential lessons for other countries planning to introduce or refresh existing pictorial health warnings include: (i) strengthening the link between image research and policy; (ii) requiring frequent image development and refreshment; (iii) using larger pictures (e.g. 80% of the front of the packet); (iv) developing themes that recognize concerns held by different smoker sub-groups; and (v) running integrated mass media campaigns when the warnings are introduced. All countries could also support moves by the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s Secretariat to develop an international bank of copyright-free warnings.