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Tobacco health warnings

Tobacco health warning example
Check Tobacco health warnings for more information
The Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011 (Tobacco Standard) for tobacco products came into effect on 1 December 2012. It covers a variety of labelling, including explanatory, information and warning messages and graphics.

Under the Tobacco Standard, all labelling for retail tobacco products, whether manufactured in, or imported into, Australia, must carry health warnings. This labelling must have:

  • warning statements, and
  • graphics, and
  • explanatory messages, and/or 
  • information messages.

The health warnings must cover a significant part of a retail tobacco package. For example, for cigarettes they must be 75 per cent of the front and 90 per cent of the back of a cigarette packet. Cigars and other tobacco products have their own specific requirements, all of which are clearly outlined in the 2011 mandatory information standard.



Death and serious illnesses

Using tobacco products is known to cause, or increase the likelihood of, a variety of serious illnesses, including:

  • heart disease
  • cancers of the lung, throat, mouth, stomach, pancreas and bladder vascular disease and strokes
  • chronic and acute lung diseases such as asthma attacks, emphysema and bronchitis.

Serious illnesses for non-users, particularly children

Women who use tobacco products during pregnancy expose their children to the risk of serious respiratory illnesses. Children exposed to second-hand smoke also have an increased risk of these illnesses, including:

  • reduced lung function, especially for infants
  • an increase in lower respiratory tract infections during infancy
  • impaired lung growth
  • the risk of developing asthma or other serious respiratory diseases in later life.

Mandatory standard

All tobacco products sold at retail from 1 December 2012 must comply with the Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011.

From 1 December 2012 tobacco products must also comply with the requirements of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 and the Tobacco Plain Packaging Regulations 2011. Visit Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing website for full details.

Amendment to the Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011 

Since the implementation of the Tobacco Standard, two amendments have been made. The first amendment Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Amendment Information Standard 2012 (No.1) was signed on 30 October 2012 by the Assistant Treasurer, the Hon David Bradbury MP. This amendment involved the replacement of the heart graphic for the warning “smoking causes heart disease” to more clearly convey the type of damage smoking can cause to the heart.

The second amendment to the Tobacco Standard Consumer (Tobacco) Amendment (Rotation of Health Warnings) Information Standard 2013 was signed by the Assistant Treasurer on 24 July 2013.  This amendment removes the legal requirement for retailers to rotate the health warnings displayed on the retail packaging of tobacco products (other than cigars placed into retail packaging by the retailer) although maintains the existing obligation for manufacturers and importers to ensure the health warnings are rotated as required. The instrument was registered on 25 July 2013 on the Federal Register of Instruments and commenced on the day after registration.


Does this apply to your business?

Under the ACL supply includes:

  • in relation to goods - (including re-supply) by way of sale, exchange, lease, hire or hire-purchase and
  • in relation to services - provide, grant of confer. 

The Tobacco Standard applies to anyone in the business of supplying tobacco products, including:

  • manufacturers
  • importers
  • distributors
  • retailers.

The Tobacco Standard covers the supply of all tobacco products supplied by a person within Australia to another person in Australia.

Supply exclusions

Tobacco products supplied in any of the following settings are not covered under the Tobacco Standard:

  • supplied by a person in Australia to a person outside of Australia
  • supplied by a person outside of Australia to a person within Australia
  • supplied between two persons who are both located outside of Australia
  • supply of tobacco products at the point of import. 

Complying with the mandatory standard

For complete information about the mandatory requirements for labelling tobacco products, suppliers must read the Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011 which includes the two amendments. This information is essential to ensure compliance with the Tobacco Standard.

For information about the consultation process on the mandatory standard, including the 2013 amendment, view Consultation Paper - Proposed Tobacco Labelling (Graphic Health Warnings) Mandatory Standard (PDF) and Tobacco health warnings rotation - Draft amendment for comment (PDF).

Media releases and online news items on tobacco and smoking accessories are also available for your reference.

Penalties and consequences

Suppliers can face heavy fines and recalls of non-compliant products if they trade in tobacco products that fail to meet requirements of the mandatory standard. For more details, view Penalties and consequences.

Legal cases and undertakings

Date commenced: 28th April 2009
Mr Colin Richard Thompson—retail tobacco products with adhesive labels affixed to the packaging failed to comply with Trade Practices (Consumer Product Information Standards)(Tobacco) Regulations 2004.
Date commenced: 9th September 2008
Raktos Distribution Services Pty Limited—Captain Black Little Cigars Filters and Captain Black Gold branded tobacco products failed to comply with the tobacco labelling requirements prescribed by the Trade Practices (Consumer Product Information Standards) (Tobacco) Regulations 2004.

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