Letter to Financial Times re tobacco advertising
Monday 20 April 1998
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Action on Smoking
09 March 1998
Re: tobacco advertising
Roger Bate of the Institute of Economic Affairs produces new variants of the familiarargument of the tobacco industry – that tobacco advertising influences brand preference,while leaving total consumption untouched (A myth stubbed out, 20 April). The mainresearch done without tobacco industry funds points the other way.
The most comprehensive study was undertaken in 1993 by Chief Economic Adviser to theDepartment of Health, Dr. Clive Smee. After reviewing 212 studies correlating advertisingspend and total tobacco consumption Smee concluded “The balance of evidence thussupports the conclusion that advertising does have a positive effect on consumption.”Smee also examined in detail the effects of tobacco advertising bans in four countries. Heconcluded: “In each case the banning of advertising was followed by a fall insmoking on a scale which cannot be reasonably attributed to other factors”. TheUS Surgeon General highlighted the difficulty of designing studies that prove the pointdefinitively, but concluded in his 1989 report: “the collective empirical,experiential and logical evidence makes it more likely than not that advertising andpromotional activities do stimulate cigarette consumption.”
Over 500,000 premature deaths per year can be attributed to smoking in the EuropeanUnion. Small percentage changes in total tobacco consumption resulting from an advertisingban will create large absolute health gains. In the face of any uncertainty, there arecompelling reasons to err on the side of caution accept the authoritative assessmentsabove and ban tobacco advertising in the EU. When new findings supporting the oppositeview are released in a high profile ‘launch’ with politically expedient timingand without the discipline of publication in a peer-reviewed journal, the work should beclosely inspected for the fingerprints of a commercially-interested sponsor.
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