Advertising Promotion & Sponsorship

Tobacco companies argue that they only market their products to influence the purchasing patterns of existing adult smokers but research shows that tobacco advertising and promotion encourages children to take up smoking. Internal tobacco company documents have also shown that children tend to smoke the most heavily-promoted brands.

Comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising are important to reduce youth smoking rates and to support adult smokers to quit. Partial bans are ineffective because companies move their marketing activities to formats not covered by law. In general, tobacco consumption falls more quickly in countries with comprehensive advertising bans than without them.

Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires nations that have ratified the treaty to introduce comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising and promotion within five years. Guidelines on implementing a comprehensive advertising ban were adopted at the Third Conference of the Parties in 2008.

Virtually all tobacco advertising is now prohibited in the UK and many other countries. The Tobacco Advertising & Promotion Act 2002 was enacted in November 2002 in the UK, with most advertising and sponsorship being prohibited from February 2003 (e.g. on billboards and in printed publications) and a ban on tobacco sponsorship of international sport introduced from July 2005.  All tobacco brand advertising and displays of tobacco products at the point of sale have been prohibited since April 2015.

In addition, from 20th May 2016, cigarette and hand-rolling tobacco packaging will become standardised which means that all the attractive, promotional aspects of tobacco branding will be removed and the appearance of the packs will be standardised, including the colour of the pack. See the ASH law guide for further details.

An EU Directive banning cross-border advertising throughout the EU has been in place since 2005. This includes sponsorship of large sporting events.

Although tobacco advertising has been banned in the UK, there is concern about the way smoking is portrayed in films, on television and online, as avenues for further tobacco marketing.

Tobacco Advertising and Promotion in the UK

While most forms of tobacco advertising and promotion in the UK are banned, the tobacco industry has continued to promote its products through packaging and “below the line” marketing. February 2019. Download here.                  

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ASH response to DH consultation on proposed implementation of advertising rules for e-cigarettes

ASH response to a Department of Health consultation on proposed implementation of advertising rules for e-cigarettes.

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