The crackdown on smoking advertising is assuming a global trend. Many countries are moving gradually to tighten grip on smoking promotion to reduce tobacco-related deaths. The tobacco industry, which rakes in huge revenues and gives employment to lot many people, is lobbying hard to put brakes on an all-out war against tobacco even as governments move cautiously to address these issues.
According to a 2012 report prepared for the European Union by the UK consulting firm GHK, the total annual cost of smoking to 27 EU countries (excluding Cyprus) was a whopping 550 billion euros ($627 billion). Yet, this figure isn’t that high compared to the cost of premature mortality from tobacco, treatment, losses from smoking-related absenteeism and long-term disability.
To scare smokers, cigarette packs in Germany from May 20 will display images of rotten teeth and blackened lungs. Also this month, cigarette manufacturers in the UK are likely to have to switch to plain packaging, without brands or imagery. These measures in Germany and the UK are to demonstrate risks posed by smoking
Earlier, in 2014, the top European court upheld a 2014 European Commission directive that banned flavoured cigarettes, mandated that 65 percent of the surface of packs must be covered with health warnings and imposed restrictions on how much nicotine could be ingested via e-cigarettes.
Of course, the US has gone a long way in curbing the cigarette promotion. So Europe is trying to get its citizens to quit smoking, or not to start the habit.
But the governments, which charge hefty taxes from tobacco companies that employ many people, may not be prepared to ban tobacco completely.
This will not stop the battle against smoking though. In another boost to the global fight against smoking, ads for electronic cigarettes will go dark on European TV, radio and websites, and will disappear from most print publications. Europe’s highest court has approved new regulations on such ads.
In the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, smoking has been banned in bars, cafés, restaurants, schools, hospitals and stadiums as well as cultural and religious events, but smoking on the streets is still permitted. Tobacco advertising is also banned.
Two African countries, Zimbabwe and Malawi, are the top tobacco exporters in the continent. And with the number of African smokers predicted to increase by 40 percent by 2030, many tobacco companies see Africa as a growing market with fewer restrictions than in parts of Europe and North America.
While in India, the highest court on Wednesday ordered cigarette manufacturers to comply with controversial new rules requiring bigger health warnings on packets that sparked weeks-long factory shutdowns.
As part of global campaign against tobacco promotion, the court ordered that the size of health warnings should increase from the current 20 percent of the surface of a cigarette packet to up to 85 percent.
While the health activists welcomed the court’s ruling, the tobacco industry complained that the graphic images of diseased lungs and mouth tumours instructed by the court ‘are too harsh’ and would deter smokers.
Understandably, the governments worldwide want to strike a balance between the economic aspect of the tobacco industry and the public health. So they choose to phase out the industry gradually through limiting the promotion space that will see many people quitting smoking.