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Tobacco Advertising Rules in the UK

Tobacco advertising in the UK has become stricter and stricter over the past five decades. In a bid to decrease smoking, the government has worked to restrict advertising on cigarette products.

Next year standardised packaging on cigarette packets will be compulsory in the UK. This is another rule imposed to try and tackle smoking and until the law comes into effect it is unclear how effective it will be.

Since the invention of other advertising rules on tobacco it’s not entirely clear how significant they have been on discouraging smoking.

Tobacco Specialists explores the new plans the government is preparing to enforce and previous laws they have introduced.

Plain Standardised Packaging

The goal of standardised plain packaging on cigarette packets is to decrease the number of smokers in the UK. Generic and plain designs mean packets will only show the name of the company. There will be no brand packaging, colours or trademark.

The government hopes the plain packaging will discourage young smokers. The generic designs on packets will also feature graphic images showing the potential effects of smoking to try and dissuade smoking.

So far, Australia is the only country that has imposed the standard plain packaging and it’s not yet clear how effective the law is.

Restricted Tobacco Advertising in UK

In the UK, tobacco advertising has become more and more restrictive since 1962 when researchers first revealed the possible dangers caused by smoking. From their findings, they recommended stricter laws on the advertising of tobacco products.

Since this initial call to action, there has been a general consensus in the UK to try and discourage smoking

Here is the timeline revealing the restrictions imposed on tobacco advertising in the UK:

  • 1 August 1965 – All television cigarette adverts were banned but the commercials for cigars and loose tobacco continued.
  • 1971 – The government and the tobacco industry agreed to include health warnings on all their cigarette packaging.
  • 1986 – Stricter guidelines were imposed to control other forms of advertising campaigns. Adverts that showed a person smoking were banned.
  • 1991 – Television adverts for cigars and loose tobacco were banned.
  • 2002 – Parliament passed the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act dictated the plans for future advertising bans. The act included the governments’ plans for displays, sponsorship, broadcasting advertising, and many other aspects. This act helped to create the future framework for tobacco advertising in the UK.
  • 14 February 2003 – General tobacco advertising was banned. There were restricted rules for tobacco specialist stores.
  • 14 May 2003 – Tobacco promotions were banned. A person would be guilty for handing out coupons for discounts on tobacco products or any other promotional offers.
  • 30 July 2003 – Any type of sponsorship at sporting events held within the UK were banned.
  • 21 December 2004 – Large adverts located in clubs, pubs and shops were banned.
  • 31 July 2005 – Brand sharing and sponsorship of global brands were banned.

Currently there are still some exemptions on how tobacco can be advertised. Tobacco sellers can advertise within limits. Clubs, pubs and shops can still advertise as long as the size of the advert does not pass size restrictions and includes health warnings about smoking.

In the UK, advertising restrictions are still developing. Most recently the display ban in small shops began on 6 April 2015. The plan for standardised packaging in May 2016 is the next major advertisement ban placed upon tobacco brands.

The plans to standardise packaging is potentially damaging to tobacco companies.

A few months ago Japan Tobacco International was the first tobacco company to launch a legal bid to stop the controversial packaging plans to be enacted in Ireland. The company claims Ireland operates outside the bounds of EU law so the packaging restrictions cannot be imposed.

At the moment, it is unclear what the result of the case will be but it is the first legal instance of tobacco companies revolting against the impending restrictions.


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