In 1970, Congress took a major step in its anti-smoking initiative by passing the Public Health Act on Smoking, which banned cigarette advertising on television and radio starting January 2, 1971. Studies have shown that a total ban on advertising leads to a decrease in the number of people who start smoking and continue to smoke. It is also one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce the demand for tobacco and is considered one of the best options for tobacco control. Tobacco companies have always defended their promotions by claiming that advertising only serves to encourage adult smokers to switch or try new brands. Restrictions on tobacco industry advertising and point-of-sale promotions are effective strategies to counter the tobacco industry's efforts to attract new smokers, current smokers, and those who have recently quit smoking.
The California Department of Public Health has prepared a fact sheet on the impact of tobacco marketing, advertising, and promotions. Counter Tobacco's “The War in Stores” and “Why Retail Tobacco Matters” pages provide more information about the problem and why tobacco control is important in retail. The Deadly Alliance report also provides insight into this issue. The tobacco industry channels the vast majority of its marketing expenses to the point of sale, so restrictions on point-of-sale advertising are a fundamental strategy to subvert the industry's attempts to attract new, current smokers who have recently quit smoking.
The World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires exhaustive restrictions on tobacco advertising, and international studies have shown that these policies reduce consumption and the perceived prevalence of smoking among young people. To limit product displays and “electrical barriers”, which the tobacco industry considers part of its advertising strategy, visit our page on restricting the placement of tobacco products. Recent trends at the state and local levels have focused on restricting the sale of tobacco products (an area where states and localities have more direct control) rather than on advertising practices to avoid facing First Amendment challenges. To date, only 13 countries in the Region (representing about 15% of the European WHO countries) have implemented a ban on all national forms of direct advertising and promotion of tobacco.
Advertising bans cause a drastic decline in knowledge of the tobacco industry's promotional activities. The Public Health Law Center suggests strategies for restricting tobacco advertising at points of sale. A common industry argument is that tobacco is a legal product and, therefore, its advertising should be legal. However, after the publication of the Surgeon General's report on smoking and health in 1964, pressure slowly increased to limit how and where big tobacco companies could advertise.
Harris and his colleagues23 used a survey tool to assess knowledge of different types of advertising in 2003. The results showed that respondents had low knowledge of most types of advertising, reflecting the fact that tobacco advertising has been increasingly restricted in all states and territories since the 1990s. There are still numerous advertising channels for tobacco companies that have fewer limitations, including marketing at points of sale such as convenience stores, gas stations, supermarkets, and pharmacies. To be effective, prohibitions must fully cover all types of TAPS activities, both direct advertising in all types of media and indirect advertising. A global study recently showed that retail advertising bans reduce experimental tobacco use among young people by 31%. Encouraging the use of certain brands among current users is undoubtedly an important function of tobacco advertising.