Tobacco Factsheet: Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship – Essential Facts

Cigarette smoking
A tobacco smoker used to illustrate the story.

Advertising affects Tobacco Use

The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year to market its products.2  The industry uses a mix of advertising, promotion and sponsorship tactics to directly affect tobacco use and attitudes related to tobacco.

Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship:

• Promote tobacco use as customary and glamorous.

• Are deceptive and misleading.

• Weaken public health campaigns.

• Target specific populations such as women, youth, and minority groups.

• Increase tobacco consumption by:3,4,5

◦ Attracting new tobacco users.

◦ Increasing the amount of consumption among current smokers.

◦ Reducing a smoker’s willingness to quit.

◦ Encouraging former smokers to start smoking again.

 To sell a product that kills up to half of all its users requires extraordinary marketing savvy. Tobacco manufacturers are some of the best marketers in the world and increasingly aggressive at circumventing prohibitions on advertising, promotion and sponsorship that are designed to curb tobacco use” —World Health Organization MPOWER Report, 2008.1

Through advertising of its products, the tobacco industry tries to create an environment in which tobacco use is familiar and socially acceptable, and the warnings about its health consequences are undermined.6

Comprehensive bans reduce Tobacco Use

Comprehensive bans, which prohibit the use of all marketing strategies by the tobacco industry, reduce tobacco use among people of all income and educational levels.7   Partial advertising bans are less effective, in part, because the tobacco industry switches its marketing efforts to unrestricted outlets when bans are not comprehensive.

• A study of 22 developed countries found that comprehensive bans reduced tobacco consumption by 6.3%.8

• A study of 102 countries showed that in countries with partial bans consumption only decreased by 1% compared with almost 9% in countries with comprehensive bans.9

• A study of 30 developing countries found partial bans were associated with a 13.6% reduction in per capita consumption, compared to 23.5% in countries with comprehensive bans.10 

The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework convention on Tobacco control (FCTC) requires comprehensive bans

The FCTC, the world’s first global public health treaty, establishes a policy framework aimed to reduce the devastating health, economic, and social impacts of tobacco.12  Article 13 of the FCTC requires Parties to implement and enforce a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship within five years of ratifying the FCTC. 13

Tobacco advertising and promotion is defined in the FCTC as “any form of commercial communication, recommendation or action with the aim, effect or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product either directly or indirectly.14   Examples include:

• Broadcast, print and outdoor advertising.

• Point of sale advertising.

• Various sales and /or distribution arrangements with retailers for product placement, sales promotions and discounts.

• Product packaging.

• Advertising on the Internet.

• Use of tobacco brand names, logos, or visual brand identities on non- tobacco products, activities, or events.

• Placement of tobacco products or tobacco use in the entertainment media.

Sponsorship is defined in the FCTC, as “any form of contribution to any event, activity or individual with aim, effect or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly.”15

Examples include:

• Sports.

• Cultural events.

• Concerts.

• School programs.

• Corporate social responsibility activities such as youth prevention initiatives and charitable contributions to public and private organizations.

Components of a comprehensive ban 

Legislation for a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship must:

• Be complete and apply to all direct and indirect marketing and promotional strategies.16,17,18  In countries with constitutional limits that prevent the adoption of comprehensive bans, policies, at a minimum, should require health warnings on all forms of advertising, promotion and sponsorships, and ban all forms of false, misleading or deceptive advertising.19

• Be broadly written to cover all forms of advertising, promotion and sponsorship.20   If examples are included in the legislation, it should be clear that they are provided for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to limit the comprehensive ban in any way.

• Undergo periodic review and amendment to address new marketing tactics developed by the industry.21

• Cover all entities that engage or participate in tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship activities, such as media outlets and advertising firms.

• Cover cross-border advertising, promotion and sponsorship originating within a nation’s territory. 22

• Include clear enforcement mechanisms to ensure the laws are effectively implemented. 23

Global progress on comprehensive bans

Countries have the right to restrict the marketing of harmful products to protect the public’s health.24,25   Countries which ban or restrict tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, include:

• All European Union countries 26

• Australia 27

• New Zealand 28

• South Africa 29

• Thailand 30

Key messages

• Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship encourage people, especially youth, to use tobacco, encourage tobacco users to use more, decrease users’ motivation to quit, and encourage quitters to relapse.

• A comprehensive ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship reduces tobacco use; partial bans have limited or no effect on tobacco consumption.

• Parties to the FCTC are required to implement comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships within five years of ratifying the FCTC as a part of an effective set of tobacco control policies. 


1       WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008: The MPOWER  package.  Geneva:  World  Health  Organization;2008. p 36.

2       Federal Trade Commission. Cigarette report for 2003. Wash- ington, DC; 2005. Available from: cigarette05/050809cigrpt.pdf.

3       WHO MPOWER, 2008, p 36.

4       Andrews RL, Franke GR. The determinants of cigarette con- sumption: A meta-analysis. Journal of Public Policy and Mar- keting. 1991; 10:81-100.

5       Warner KE. Selling Smoking: Cigarette Advertising and Pub- lic Health. Washington, DC: American Public Health Associa- tion; 1986.

6       U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking: 25 Years of Progress. A Re- port of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. DHHS Publication No. (CDC) 89-8411. 1989.

7       WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008: The MPOWER  package.  Geneva:  World  Health  Organization; 2008. p 37.

8       Saffer H. Tobacco Advertising and Promotion. In: Jha P, Chap- loupka F, editors. Tobacco Control in Developing Countries. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.; 2000. p. 224. Avail- able from:

9       Saffer H, 2000.

10     Blecher E. The impact of tobacco advertising bans on con- sumption in developing countries. Journal of Health Econom- ics. 2008;27(4):930-42.

11     WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Geneva: WHO;  2003. Available from:

12     Framework  Convention Alliance.  What  is  the  Framework Convention on Tobacco Control? Available from: http://www.

13     Part III: Measures Relating to the Reduction of the Demand for Tobacco. Framework Convention Alliance. Available from: ticle&id=25&Itemid=31

14     WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Geneva: WHO;  2003. Available from:

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15     WHO,  2003. Available  from:

16     WHO, 2008.

17     WHO. Tobacco Free Initiative: Building blocks for tobacco control:  a  handbook. Geneva: World  Health  Organization; 2004. Available from: with%20cover.pdf

18    Saffer  H,  Chaloupka F.  The  effect  of  tobacco  advertising bans on tobacco consumption. Journal of Health Economics.v 2000;19(6):1117–1137.

19    Framework Convention Alliance. “Briefing paper: Guidelines on Article 13 and a protocol on cross-border tobacco advertis- ing, promotions an sponsorship.” Second Session of the Con- ference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC, Bangkok, Thailand,

30 June-6 July 2007.

20    WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Geneva: WHO; 2003. Available from: fctc/text_download/en/index.html.Framework Convention Al- liance. “Briefing paper: Guidelines on Article 13 and a proto- col on cross-border tobacco advertising, promotions an spon- sorship.” Second Session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC, Bangkok, Thailand, 30 June-6 July 2007.

21    WHO, 2008, p 38.

22    Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control. A Guide to Domestic Implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Washington, DC: The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control; 2006 Jan.

23    WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008: The MPOWER  package.  Geneva:  World  Health  Organization; 2008. p 52.

24    ASH UK. Tobacco Advertising: Banning tobacco promotion, ethical and civil liberties issues. London: Action on Smoking and Health UK; 1997. Available from: files/documents/ASH_168.pdf.

25    Joossens, L. Questions and answers: Why ban tobacco adver- tising in the European Union? [monograph on the Internet]. Geneva: International Union Against Cancer; 1998. Avail- able from: html.

26 Questions and Answers on Tobacco Advertising, 2005. Available from:  &language=EN&guiLanguage=en

27    Action on  Smoking and Health Australia. 2008. Available from: legislation.htm

28    Action on Smoking and Health New Zealand. 2008. Available from:

29    South Africa Department of Health. 1999. Available from:

30    Tobacco Control Laws in Thailand. Thailand Health Promo- tion Institute. 2002. Available from: advertising_ban.htm.

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