ICAT Europe

International Coalition Against Tobacco

European Chapter
ICAT- Italia, c/o GEA Progetto Salute, 39 G.Scalia, 00136 Rome Italy.
Tel. 0039-06-39722649. Fax: 178-2215662.

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Advertising & Promotion

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 This had to be withdrawn by Imperial Tobacco after complaints that it appealed particularly to children.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 (Hastings et al 1994) A survey of Dundee schoolchildren in 1994-5 - two years after the posters were withdrawn - revealed a majority preference for the Regal brand underlining the impact of the 'Reg' campaign amongst young people (Barnard et al 1996).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 sponsorship?
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 1991).

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 customers.

Are bans on tobacco advertising effective?
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 banned.

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 October 2000.

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 sponsorship.

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 Internet.

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 38%.'

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.

Direct Marketing
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 solicited.

The Internet
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 Gorilla http://www.citygorilla.pl/html/intro.jsp?c=pl 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 advertising.

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 Health.
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 309: 933
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.
The Guardian (2001) BAT lures young smokers with 'devious' online scheme 24 January
The leaked memo

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