Improper disclosure: tobacco packaging and emission labelling regulations

Public Health. 2012 Jul;126(7):613-9. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2012.03.012. Epub 2012 May 19.


Objectives: Cigarette packets in many countries display emission numbers such as tar. These numbers may be misleading as they do not represent the amount of toxins delivered to human smokers. This study examined how consumers interpret and understand numerical and descriptive emission information.

Study design: A discrete choice study was conducted among adult smokers (n = 312) and non-smokers (n = 291) in Ontario, Canada.

Methods: Participants viewed groups of cigarette packets with emission labels from the European Union (EU), Canada and Australia. Participants completed ratings on perceived tar delivery, health risks, and usefulness and understandability of the information.

Results: Participants were significantly more likely to believe that Canadian and EU packets with lower emission numbers would have lower tar delivery (92.2% and 89.9%, respectively) and lower health risks (89.5% and 82.9%, respectively) than packets with higher numbers. Approximately 74% of participants rated the numerical Canadian label as providing the most useful information; however, 62% also rated this label as most difficult to understand. Most participants rated the descriptive Australian label as easiest to understand.

Conclusions: Labels featuring quantitative emission values are associated with false beliefs regarding lower tar delivery and health risks. Descriptive statements about emissions are easier to understand and associated with more accurate beliefs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Comprehension
  • Disclosure / standards*
  • European Union
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Product Labeling / standards*
  • Risk
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Tars
  • Young Adult


  • Tars