Action on Smoking and Health

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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.

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Advertising, promotion & sponsorship

Regulation Description
United Kingdom
ASA Guidance on advertising e-cigarettes
(External web page)
Introduced restrictions on the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of e-cigarettes.
Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display and Specialist Tobacconists) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2011
(External web page)
These regulations amend the commencement dates of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display) (England) Regulations 2010 (the “Display Regulations”) and the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Specialist Tobacconists) (England) Regulations 2010 (the “Specialist Tobacconist Regulations”).
The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display) (England) Regulations 2010
(External web page)
The regulations were due to enter into force in October 2011 for large shops and October 2013 for small shops. However, following publication of the Government’s Tobacco Control Plan on 9 March 2011 implementation of the regulations was postponed until April 2012 and April 2015 for large and small shops respectively.
The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display of Prices) (England) Regulations 2010
(External web page)
These regulations set out the requirements for tobacco price lists which will enter into force at the same time as the product display regulations – see above.
Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010
(External web page)
Point of sale display ban, created retail register, gave enforcement officers power to issue FPNs for tobacco sales violations, criminalised proxy purchase and underage purchase.
The Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010 (Ancillary Provisions) Order 2010 (regs for the above)

Regulations for the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010 (Scotland only).
UK Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 (In Force)
(External web page)
The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act received Royal Assent on 7 November 2002 and came into force on 14 February 2003.The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 comprehensively bans the advertising and promotion of tobacco products including the use of brand-sharing and sponsorship of cultural and sport events.

The ban was implemented in stages as follows:

14 February 2003 – From that date it became illegal to advertise tobacco products on billboards, in newspapers and magazines. Direct mail was banned in May 2003.

31 July 2003 – Tobacco sponsorship of domestic sporting events was banned.

21 December 2004 – Regulations governing advertising at the point of sale came into effect. These limit advertising to one A5 sized ad per outlet.

31 July 2005 – The ban on tobacco sponsorship of international events such as Formula One motor racing entered into force. In addition, regulations on brand-sharing came into effect.

Commencement order
(External web page)
Transitional regulations (sponsorship)
(External web page)
Brandsharing regulations
(External web page)
Point of Sale regulations
(External Web Page)
Internet regulations
(External web page)
ASH response to the consultation on the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion regulations
Submission by ASH to the consultation on the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion regulations
Department of Health consultation on draft regulations relating to brand-sharing, sponsorship and point of sale materials
(External web page)
On 30 May 2001 the European Commission presented its revised proposal for a Directive on tobacco advertising and sponsorship. In August 2001 the Government issued a consultation document in respect of this proposal.The proposal initially concerned tobacco products, defined as ‘all products intended to be smoked, sniffed, sucked or chewed’. However during discussions on the proposal, other Member States have suggested that any restrictions on the advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products should also include cigarette papers.
ASH response to the consulation on the inclusion of Cigarette Papers
ASH Submission to the Department of Health Consulation on the inclusion of cigarette papers within the scope of the proposed EU Directive on tobacco advertising and sponsorship
Department of Health Consultation on inclusion of cigarette papers
(External web page)
Consultation by the Department of Health on the inclusion of cigarette papers within the scope of the proposed EU Directive on tobacco advertising and sponsorship.
European Union
Directive on the banning of tobacco advertising and promotion
COD 2001/0119 (Agreed) (pdf)
On 2 December 2002 the Council reached an agreement on a proposed directive to ban tobacco advertising. The directive covers four areas of cross border advertising (printed publications, internet, radio and sponsorship), but does not include indirect advertising.
Directive 2003/33/EC
Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to the advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products
DTI consultation on draft EU regulations relating sales promotion
Public consultation on a proposal for a regulation concerning sales promotions in the internal market.

From previous European Commission papers in the 1990s it was concluded that long-standing market controls in many member states prevented the development of a Single Market in sales promotions across borders. In October 2001, the European Commission issued a proposals for a Regulation on Sales Promotion, the Department of Trade and Industry undertook a consultation to examine the issue.

ASH response to DTI Consultation of the EU proposal for internal sales promotions
ASH Submission to the Department of Trade and Industry on their consultation on draft European Commission proposal for a sales promotion regulation CCP 001/02
Regulation of information society service – “the e-commerce directive”
This directive establishes a free internal market in information society products such as services offered over the web. Its relevance to tobacco is that uses a particular definition for ‘commercial communication’ (advertising) – see article 2(f) and provides in-principle exemptions from general freedom for public health.
Exemption for Public Health
Article 1 (3). This Directive complements Community law applicable to information society services without prejudice to the level of protection for, in particular, public health and consumer interests, as established by Community acts and national legislation implementing them in so far as this does not restrict the freedom to provide information society services.Article 3 (4) defines exemptions from single market rules more specifically.
EU Directive 2000/31/EC (In Force)
(External Web Page)
Sales promotions in the Internal Market
COM 546 2001 final
(External web page)
In the interest of a strong internal market, emphasis of this EU proposal falls on the primacy of free movement of goods and services within member states. It seeks to harmonise differing sales promotion regulations between countries to minimise distortions in trade. It describes sales promotion as financial discounts, free gifts, promotional contests or games offered by a producer in order to expand markets.Though the proposal makes reference to public health in Article 5 (protection of children and adolescents), it remains highly controversial – article 3 of the proposed regulation prohibits member states from restricting commercial communications of a sales promotion unless required by community law.

In the absence of an EU directive explicitly prohibiting tobacco promotion, the proposal carries the potential to undermine any effort to ban the promotion of tobacco products at national levels.

EC Directive 98/48/EC
(External web page)
A previous EC directive to ban tobacco advertising 98/43/EC was struck down by a European Court of Justice ruling (Case C-376/98) on account of its legal base.The court argued that the Directive must contribute to “eliminating appreciable distortions of competition” and “eliminating obstacles to the free movement of good and to the freedom to provide services.” The Court found the Directive had failed these tests.

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