The tobacco industry typically spends about ten times as much
money on tobacco promotion as the Government spends on tobacco
prevention. During the first year of their Smokeline campaign,
the Health Education Board for Scotland spent £ 550.000 on
television, print and poster advertising. At the same time
tobacco companies are estimated to have spent £ 5,6 million on
above the line advertising in Scotland.
(Platt et al 1997)
Why do we need a ban on tobacco advertising?
The tobacco industry needs to maintain levels of smoking prevalence and
recruit new smokers to replace the 330 who die every day in the UK.
Thousands of internal documents from the UK tobacco industry's five main
advertising agencies have recently been released as part of an
investigation by the House of Commons Health Committee. These reveal how
the tobacco companies have deliberately undermined voluntary regulations
on tobacco advertising, attempted to expand the market for cigarettes by
recruiting new smokers and targeted vulnerable groups such as the young
and the poor. (Hastings & MacFadyen 2000).
Advertising either encourages people to start smoking or to maintain
their smoking prevalence. Research shows that children are more aware of
tobacco advertising and are more influenced by it than adults. Unlike
adults, children do not buy the cheapest cigarettes - they buy the
trendiest, most advertised brands. A BMA report showed that 61% of
children smoke Benson & Hedges, the most heavily advertised brand of
all (BMA 1995). This contradicts the claim of the tobacco companies that
their advertising is only intended to encourage adults to switch brands
and has no impact on children.
In 1993 Regal launched its 'Reg' campaign using playground humour.
This had to be withdrawn by Imperial Tobacco after complaints that it
appealed particularly to children. Research confirmed that the 'Reg'
campaign was getting through to children more effectively than to adults
and held most appeal for teenagers, particularly 14-15 year old smokers.
(Hastings et al 1994) A survey of Dundee schoolchildren in 1994-5 - two
years after the posters were withdrawn - revealed a majority preference
for the Regal brand underlining the impact of the 'Reg' campaign amongst
young people (Barnard et al 1996).
The tobacco industry has increasingly targeted both its product and its
advertising at women. A leading tobacco trade journal has openly stated
that "Women are a prime target as far as any alert European
marketing man is concerned" (Amos & Jacobson 1985). 'Feminine'
brands emphasising low-tar, length and slimness play on traditional
fears of weight gain. This systematic targeting of women is reflected in
the increasing levels of lung cancer and heart disease amongst Scottish
women and the fact that nearly twice as many women as men under the age
of 65 are at risk of developing the most dangerous form of small cell
lung cancer (British Thoracic Society 1998).
Why do we need a ban on tobacco
Sports sponsorship is a highly cost-effective form of advertising for
the tobacco industry. By sponsoring events such as Formula One they are
able to promote their brands to a youth audience and to reinforce the
imagery of their products. Research published in the Lancet showed that
boys are nearly twice as likely to become regular smokers if they are
motor racing fans (Charlton 1997). Research at Strathclyde University
has also shown that children as young as 6 years of age associate
Marlboro with "fast cars and excitement" (Hastings et al
The tobacco industry is keen to associate itself with popular events
which attract a largely youthful audience. For the last few years the
Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Festival has been sponsored by Marlboro Lights
who were filmed handing out free cigarettes at the various venues. This
is part of the tobacco industry's marketing strategy to build up a
'direct mail' database of private addresses and target potential
Are bans on tobacco advertising
A report carried out by the Department of Health's Chief Economic
Adviser, Dr Clive Smee in 1992 showed that advertising bans reduce
tobacco consumption (Smee 1992). Recent research confirms that in the
four countries where a ban on tobacco advertising has been introduced as
part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy - Norway, Finland, New
Zealand and France - per capita consumption of cigarettes dropped
between 14-37% after the implementation of the ban (Joosens 1997).
European Directive on tobacco advertising
In 1997 EU health ministers voted to phase in restrictions on tobacco
advertising and sponsorship over an 8-year period. Under the provisions
of the EU Directive 98/43/EC, all 'commercial communication' and
sponsorship whose aim or effect is to promote tobacco products was to be
The EC Directive was passed by the European Parliament in July 1998.
The timetable for implementation was set out as follows:
- all Member States have to introduce appropriate national
legislation within 3 years of the publication date of the the
Directive (30 July 1998).
- all advertisements in print media (newspapers) have to cease
within 1 further year
- all indirect advertising and sponsorship
(with the exception of
"world events") has to cease within a further 2 years
- tobacco sponsorship of "world events" i.e. Formula One
may continue for a maximum further 3 years but have to end by 2006.
Following a legal challenge by tobacco companies and the German
Government, the European Court of Justice annulled the EU Directive in
UK Government and Scottish Executive position
The UK Government intended to introduce the EU Directive in December
1999. Following the annulment of the EU Directive, the UK government
announced in the Queen's Speech in December 2000, that it would
introduce primary legislation banning the advertising and promotion of
tobacco products. The Bill aims to ban tobacco advertisements in print
& electronic media and billboards, direct mailing, free
distributions and sponsorship. It will also restrict brand sharing and
point of sale advertising. It has similar scope to the annulled EU
Directive. The Scottish Parliament is empowered to make regulations
covering advertising at point of sale, specialist tobacconist shops and
The Scottish Parliament voted on 17 January for the ban on tobacco
advertising to be introduced in Westminster as an UK bill. The Scottish
Parliament heath committee had earlier agreed that, as tobacco
advertising was a cross-border issue, the ban had to be introduced at an
UK level. On 23 January 2001, the Second Reading of the UK Tobacco
Advertising and Promotion Bill was passed by in the House of Commons by
a majority of 305 MPs. The bill has now gone to the Committee stage
where each clause will be considered and amendments can be made.
Potential areas of weakness in the Bill are the regulations on brand
sharing and the definition of point of sale advertising. The tobacco
industry is also likely to lobby for an exemption for direct marketing (mailshots
etc.) and will be keen to exploit the opportunities offered by the
For many years the tobacco industry has been using the promotion of
tobacco brands on non-tobacco products as a way of heightening brand
awareness and imagery. For example, following a ban on tobacco
advertising in Norway in 1975, advertisements for Camel boots began to
appear which were identical to those previously used for Camel
cigarettes. Benson & Hedges has already developed a range of coffee
products so that its 'brand' will continue to be promoted. Brand sharing
is one of the most effective marketing tools of the tobacco industry and
should be banned.
Point of sale
Point of sale tobacco advertising is crucial to the tobacco industry. It
is an extremely effective method of encouraging experimentation by young
people. A study on the influences of cigarette marketing on 13 year olds
undertaken in 1994 in California showed that 'seeing tobacco marketing
in stores increased the likelihood of experimenting with tobacco by
New Zealand decided to ban point of sale advertising in 1998 when it
became apparent that the tobacco industry was maximising the marketing
potential of point-of-sale. Strategies employed by the industry included
the increased use of colour branding to create awareness of individual
brands, the prominent use of Perspex units containing tobacco packets
situated around the shop, the use of colourful price notices and of
slightly larger display units with rounded fronts to push tobacco
packets into prominent positions. A survey in Wellington also found that
62% of tobacco retail outlets had tobacco products visible from the
outside. (Fraser 1998).
Documents released as part of the House of Commons Health Select
Committee inquiry in to the tobacco industry, reveal how UK tobacco
companies have considered tiling retailers' floors in brand colours and
actively promoting their products around newspaper gantries. (Hastings
& MacFadyen 2000b) In the UK there is a record of persistent
breaches of the voluntary agreement in the way that point of sale
material is displayed. The 9th report of the Committee for Monitoring
Agreements on Tobacco Advertising and Sponsorship (COMATAS) revealed
that many health warnings on point of sale advertising had been obscured
by other goods or displays placed there by the shop owner. (Department
of Health 1996). Tight restrictions must be introduced at point of sale,
including packaging and shop displays.
The tobacco industry is opposed to the proposed ban on direct mailing.
Over the years it has built up a mailing databases of around 7 million
consumers who are regularly targeted with promotional offers and free
products. In January 2001, the Daily Star reported that Imperial Tobacco
had begun sending people rolling machines through the post. The
promotional mail-shot, complete with rolling tobacco and papers, was
seen as targeting smokers at a time (New Year) when many had resolved to
quit. (Daily Star 2001). The bill should ban direct marketing and
prohibit the practice of sending "money-off" vouchers and
other promotional material to people's homes unless they are directly
The potential of the Internet is already beginning to be exploited by
tobacco companies. The Guardian recently revealed that BAT is launching
an "invisible" drive to promote cigarettes through a disguised
website which will drive young consumers to clubs, bars and restaurants
selling its brands. According to a leaked internal memo, the tobacco
giant is looking to invest £2.5m in building a new website - codenamed
project Horeca (hotels, restaurants and cafes) - aimed at young people
world-wide. It is being viewed as a backdoor attempt by BAT to promote
its premium brands to young smokers at a time when many countries are
clamping down on tobacco advertising. A prototype site branded City
went live in Poland in January 2001. According to The Guardian, venues
promoting and selling BAT cigarettes are given a prominent position on
the site. (The Guardian 2001)
More information on tobacco
Amos A and Jacobson B (1985) When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, London:
British Medical Association.
Barnard M and Forsyth A. (1996) The social context of under-age smoking:
a qualitative study of cigarette brand preference. Health Education
Journal 55: 175-184
British Thoracic Society Press Release 2/12/98. Lung cancer risk twice
as high for women.
Charlton A (1997) Tobacco sponsorship of Formula One racing, The Lancet
Vol. 351: 451.
Daily Star (2001) Postman Pot. 16 January.
Department of Health (1996) Ninth Report of the Committee for Monitoring
Agreements on Tobacco Advertising and Sponsorship, London: Department of
Fraser, T. (1998) Phasing out of point-of-sale tobacco advertising in
New Zealand. Tobacco Control 7: 82-4.
Hastings G & MacFadyen L (2000a) A day in the life of an advertising
man: review of internal documents from the UK tobacco industry's
principal advertising agencies. British Medical Journal 321: 366-371.
Hastings G & MacFadyen L (2000b) Keep Smiling. No-one's going to die,
BMA Tobacco Control Resource Centre, London.
Hastings G, Aitken P, MacKintosh A (1991) From the Billboard to the
Playground, Glasgow: University of Strathclyde
Hastings G, Ryan, H, Teer, P, Mackintosh A. (1994) Cigarette advertising
and children's smoking: why Reg was withdrawn. British Medical Journal
Joosens L (1997) The effectiveness of banning advertising for tobacco
products, Brussels: International Union Against Cancer.
Jarvis, M. (1998) Supermarket cigarettes: the brands that dare not speak
their name', British Medical Journal 316: 929-231
Platt S, Tannahill A, Watson J, Fraser E (1997) Effectiveness of
antismoking telephone helpline: follow up survey. British Medical
Journal 314: 1371-5.
Smee, C (1992) Effect of tobacco advertising on tobacco consumption,
London: Department of Health.
Guardian (2001) BAT lures young smokers with 'devious' online scheme
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