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World No Tobacco Day 2013: Protecting Public Health Requires Global Effort


WASHINGTON, DC. 30 May – The days of actors dressing up as doctors to promote cigarette brands may be long over, but if you think tobacco advertising has been effectively banned, think again. Slick ads in magazines, in stores and on the Internet still reach millions of consumers a day, perpetuating their cycle of death and disease and effectively replacing “customers” who have succumbed to tobacco use.

Globally, tobacco use kills nearly six million people each year, and about 450,000 in the United States. Unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll could rise to more than eight million worldwide by 2030. Studies have shown that tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS) is the driver of this global epidemic.

Although the U.S. has since fallen behind in its efforts, it was among the earliest to impose various restrictions, including a ban on tobacco advertising on billboards, radio and television. However, this does not stop the industry from spending nearly $10 billion a year on domestic marketing. In fact, this money is accomplishing its goal – every day, about 3000 children try smoking, and about 1000 become long-term smokers.

While 19 countries, representing 425 million people or six per cent of the world’s population, have now established comprehensive measures to eliminate TAPS, another 74 countries currently have no or very limited restrictions.

In addition, nearly every established global measure is challenged by the powerful multinational tobacco industry. For example, in 2012 Australia became the first country in the world to mandate plain tobacco packages – free of manufacturers’ logos, colors, and other brand imagery, and instead dominated by graphic health warnings. The tobacco industry immediately launched legal challenges in national courts and under a trade agreement with Hong Kong. Fortunately, such challenges have galvanized public health supporters around the world leading other governments, including New Zealand, the UK, South Africa and India, to consider plain packaging.

Big tobacco has spent a century creating a dream world where attractive, young, empowered people express their individuality with a cigarette in hand. The reality is more like a nightmare – addiction, disease, and an early death.

On May 31, 2013, the 26th annual World No Tobacco Day, the global community must recognize Big Tobacco’s schemes to undermine bans on TAPS, and must support governments that are trying to protect public health.

For World No Tobacco Day 2013, ASH will release a video that showcases the nightmare world that tobacco companies strive to achieve through the use of advertising, promotion, and sponsorships.

If done properly, bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship do work,” says Laurent Huber, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health, the nation’s oldest anti-tobacco organization. “These efforts must include monitoring opposition from the tobacco industry and other groups, and amending bans as required in response to innovations in industry tactics and media technology.”