Most countries are putting loads of efforts to reduce tobacco consumption. The truth is that smoking is a huge burden on healthcare systems around the globe. That is why in many places there are restrictions on tobacco advertising. Now scientists at the University of Sydney found that despite strict tobacco marketing regulations companies still manage to get the message out.
In Australia, as well as many other countries, direct advertising of tobacco to consumers has long been banned. However, one has to realize that for tobacco companies this is a vital part of business. They have to advertise to survive. This means that they are willing to exploit loopholes in local advertising laws in order to maintain their market presence. But how do they do that?
Scientists talked with former tobacco industry employees in order to discover the ways tobacco industry exploits loopholes in Australian advertising laws. This study showed that cigarette manufacturers are incentivising retailers with cash payments, promotions and rebates. In other words, advertising strategy shifted towards people who sell tobacco. Cigarette companies are also providing retailers with such experiential incentives like all-expenses paid holidays, exclusive parties and events, tickets to international sporting events. And it’s not just about companies – tobacco business is also incentivising retail staff to reach sales targets.
Tobacco companies are pretending to be reformed. Some even support public health incentives. And aforementioned tactics are oftentimes used very openly. But how can they do that? Well, Australia only banned advertisements aimed at consumers – business-to-business marketing is still allowed. Christina Watts, lead author of the study, said: “Despite the tobacco industry’s repeated argument that such promotional activities are only to increase their individual market share, rather than drive new sales, our research shows that incentives were provided to encourage retailers to reach or exceed sales targets and to push products directly to consumers”.
What scientists can suggest to address this situation? The answer is simple – tobacco advertising to retailers should be banned as well. Australia is already considering to ban all tobacco advertising and promotion, introducing plain packaging with graphic health warnings, removing visible tobacco products from the stores.
This would pretty much cement Australia’s position as the leader in tobacco control. Eventually many countries would follow suit. This should reduce the number of people smoking even further and provide a blueprint to limiting sales of other harmful products as well.
Source: University of Sydney