DESIGN Cross-sectional study.
PARTICIPANTS Members of GLOBALink (www.globalink.org), an internet listserve for tobacco activists with members in 56 countries, who were asked to provide specific information on cigarette warning requirements in their countries.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Presence of specific warning labels, overall content score (based on a 0–10 scale with a point for each specific warning mentioned), size of warning label, location of warning label.
RESULTS Forty-five countries (80%) responded; 40 had mandatory labelling requirements, three had voluntary agreements with the industry and two had no requirements. In general, American companies did no more in foreign countries than required by local law. The average developing country content score was 1.6, compared with 5.0 in developed countries (p = 0.0003). Forty-two per cent of countries either had no warning requirement or had only a very general health warning. The most common warning was for heart disease (49% of countries) and the least common was for addiction (14%). All warnings were more common in developed than developing countries. Warnings in developed country were on average 27% larger than those in developing countries (p = 0.325). Seventy-three per cent of labels in developing countries appeared only on the side of the pack, whereas 78% of labels in developed countries appeared on the front and back (p = 0.003).
CONCLUSIONS In almost every respect measured, residents in developing countries are receiving inferior information about the hazards of smoking than residents of developed countries. Laws should be promulgated in importing and exporting countries to ensure that, where their labelling laws differ, companies would be required to provide the more comprehensive labelling.
- health warnings
- cigarette pack labelling
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