Tobacco advertising

Tobacco advertising is the advertising of tobacco products or use (typically cigarette smoking) by the tobacco industry through a variety of media including sponsorship, particularly of sporting events. It is now one of the most highly regulated forms of marketing. Some or all forms of tobacco advertising are banned in many countries.



This advertisement for "Egyptian Deities" cigarettes depicts an early 20th century woman holding a package of cigarettes.
"Egyptian Deities" advertisement. Early 20th century.

The first known advertisement in the United States was for the snuff and tobacco products of P. Lorillard and Company and was placed in the New York daily paper in 1789. Advertising was an emerging concept, and tobacco-related advertisements were not seen as any different from those for other products: their negative impact on health was unknown at the time. Local and regional newspapers were used because of the small-scale production and transportation of these goods. The first real brand name to become known on a bigger scale in the USA was "Bull Durham" which emerged in 1868, with the advertising placing the emphasis on how easy it was "to roll your own".[1]

Color lithography (1870–1900)

German cigarette ad by Hans Rudi Erdt (1915)

The development of color lithography in the late 1870s allowed the companies to create attractive images to better present their products. This led to the printing of pictures onto the cigarette cards, previously only used to stiffen the packaging but now turned into an early marketing concept.[2] By the last quarter of the 19th century, magazines such as Punch carried advertisements for different brands of cigarettes, snuff, and pipe tobacco. Advertising was significantly helped by the distribution of free or subsidized branded cigarettes to troops during World War I and World War II. The second invention was a cigarette-making machine developed in the 1880s.[3]

Modern advertising (1920s)

Modern advertising was created with the innovative techniques used in tobacco advertising beginning in the 1920s.[4][5]


Early 20th-century advertisements of Tobacco products made in Durham, NC
Winchester cigarettes advertisement in front of a drug store in Montreal, Quebec in 1942

Advertising in the decades leading up to World War II consisted primarily of full page, color magazine and newspaper advertisements. Many companies created slogans for their specific cigarettes and also gained endorsements from famous men and women. Some advertisements even contained children or doctors in their efforts to sway new customers to their specific brand. Much of these advertisements sought to make smoking appear fashionable and modern to men and women. Also, since the health effects of smoking weren't entirely proven at this time, the only real opposing argument to smoking was made on moral grounds. However, there were still a substantial number of doctors and scientists who believed there was a health risk associated with smoking cigarettes.[6] During World War II, cigarettes were included in American soldier's C-rations since many tobacco companies sent the soldiers cigarettes for free. Cigarette sales reached an all-time high at this point, as cigarette companies were not only able to get soldiers addicted to tobacco, but specific brands also found a new loyal group of customers as soldiers who smoked their cigarettes returned from the war.[7]

U.S. tobacco ads from the 20th century

After World War II, cigarette companies advertised frequently on television programs. To combat this move by the cigarette companies, the Federal Communications Commission required television stations to air anti-smoking advertisements at no cost to the organizations providing such advertisements. In 1970, Congress took their anti-smoking initiative one step further and passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, banning the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio starting on January 2, 1971. After the television ban, most cigarette advertising took place in magazines, newspapers, and on billboards. However, in 1999 all cigarette billboard advertisements were replaced with anti-smoking messages, with some of these anti-smoking messages playing parodies of cigarette companies advertising figures and slogans. Since 1984, cigarette companies have also been forced to place Surgeon's General warnings on all cigarette packs and advertisements because of the passing of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.[8] Restrictions on cigarette companies became even tighter in 2010 with the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The act prohibits tobacco companies from sponsoring sports, music, and other cultural events and also prevents the display of their logos or products on T-shirts, hats, or other apparel.[9] The constitutionality of both this act and the Food and Drug Administration's new graphic cigarette warning labels are being questioned under cigarette companies' first amendment rights.[10]

2000 onwards

Some mini motorcycles have a cigarette or other tobacco trademark applied; such branded mini-motorcycles have been found in New Zealand in breach of tobacco advertising legislation.[11]



Before the 1970s, most tobacco advertising was legal in the United States and most European nations. In the United States, in the 1950s and 1960s, cigarette brands frequently sponsored television shows—most notably To Tell the Truth and I've Got a Secret.

One of the most famous television jingles of the era came from an advertisement for Winston cigarettes. The slogan "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should!" proved to be catchy, and is still quoted today. When used to introduce Gunsmoke (gun = smoke), two gun shots were heard in the middle of the jingle just when listeners were expecting to hear the word "cigarette". Other popular slogans from the 1960s were "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch!," which was used to advertise Tareyton cigarettes, and "I'd Walk a Mile for a Camel".

In 1954, tobacco companies ran the ad "A Frank Statement." The ad was the first in a campaign to dispute reports that smoking cigarettes could cause lung cancer and had other dangerous health effects.[12]

In the 1950s, manufacturers began adding filter tips to cigarettes to remove some of the tar and nicotine as they were smoked. "Safer," "less potent" cigarette brands were also introduced. Light cigarettes became so popular that, as of 2004, half of American smokers preferred them over regular cigarettes,.[13] According to The Federal Government's National Cancer Institute (NCI), light cigarettes provide no benefit to smokers' health.[14][15]

In 1964, Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States was published. It was based on over 7000 scientific articles that linked tobacco use with cancer and other diseases. This report led to laws requiring warning labels on tobacco products and to restrictions on tobacco advertisements. As these began to come into force, tobacco marketing became more subtle, and a number of advertisements designed to appeal to children, particularly those featuring Joe Camel resulting in increased awareness and uptake of smoking among children.[16] However, restrictions did have an effect on adult quit rates, with its use declining to the point that by 2004, nearly half of all Americans who had ever smoked had quit.[17]

Targeting youth

Prior to 1964, many of the cigarette companies advertised their brand by claiming that their product did not have serious health risks. A couple of examples would be "Play safe with Philip Morris" and "More doctors smoke Camels". Such claims were made both to increase the sales of their product and to combat the increasing public knowledge of smoking's negative health effects.[18]

Much cigarette advertising was intended to target youth. Major cigarette companies would advertise their brands in popular TV shows such as The Flintstones and The Beverly Hillbillies, which were watched by many children and teens.[19] In 1964, after facing much pressure from the public, The Cigarette Advertising Code was created by the Tobacco companies, which prohibited advertising directed to youth.[18]

The use of celebrities and famous athletes would also encourage smoking for youth. Popular comedian Bob Hope was used to advertise for cigarette companies.[18] The African-American magazine Ebony often used athletes to advertise major cigarette brands.[20]

Customer loyalty

Tobacco companies use advertising to drive brand awareness and brand preference amongst smokers, in order to drive sales and to increase brand and customer loyalty. One of the original forms of this was the inclusion of cigarette cards, a collectible set of ephemera.

Target markets

Woman smoking in Japan

The intended audience of tobacco advertising has changed throughout the years, with some brands specifically targeted towards a particular demographic. According to Reynolds American Inc, the Joe Camel campaign in the United States was created to advertise Camel brand to young adult smokers. Class action plaintiffs and politicians described the Joe Camel images as a "cartoon" intended to advertise the product to people below the legal smoking age. Under pressure from various anti-smoking groups, the Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Congress, Camel ended the campaign on 10 July 1997.

Tobacco companies have frequently targeted the female market, seeing it as a potential growth area as the largest market segment has traditionally been male. The introduction of the 1960s Virginia Slims brand, and in particular its "You've Come a Long Way Baby" and "Slimmer than the fat cigarettes men smoke" campaigns, was specifically aimed at women.[21]

When marketing cigarettes to the developing world, tobacco companies use the Western lifestyle as a mechanism to lure this demographic into purchasing their products.[22]


Universal Pictures has a "Policy Regarding Tobacco Depictions in Films". In films anticipated to be released in the United States with a G, PG or PG-13 rating, smoking incidents (depiction of tobacco smoking, tobacco-related signage or paraphernalia) appear only when there is a substantial reason for doing so. In that case, the film is released with a health warning in end credits, DVD packaging, etc.[23]

Since May 2007, the Motion Picture Association of America may give a film glamorizing smoking or depicting pervasive smoking outside of a historic or other mitigating context a higher rating.[24]

There have also been moves to reduce the depiction of protagonists smoking in television shows, especially those aimed at children. For example, Ted Turner took steps to remove or edit scenes that depict characters smoking in cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo,[25] which are shown on his Cartoon Network and Boomerang television channels.

Video game content rating systems have also looked at the usage of tobacco in video games; a video game depicting the use of tobacco may have a higher rating.

One movie depicting smokeless tobacco use was the 2003 John Travolta movie Basic where smokeless brand Skoal was used.[26][27]


Both Google and Microsoft have policies that prohibit the promotion of tobacco products on their advertising networks.[28][29] However, some tobacco retailers are able to circumvent these policies by creating landing pages that promote tobacco accessories such as cigar humidors and lighters.


Tobacco companies have had particularly large budgets for their advertising campaigns. The Federal Trade Commission claimed that cigarette manufacturers spent $8.24 billion on advertising and promotion in 1999, the highest amount ever at that time. The FTC later claimed that in 2005, cigarette companies spent $13.11 billion on advertising and promotion, down from $15.12 billion in 2003, but nearly double what was spent in 1998. The increase, despite restrictions on the advertising in most countries, was an attempt at appealing to a younger audience, including multi-purchase offers and giveaways such as hats and lighters, along with the more traditional store and magazine advertising.[21]

Marketing consultants ACNielsen announced that, during the period September 2001 to August 2002, tobacco companies advertising in the UK spent £25 million, excluding sponsorship and indirect advertising, broken down as follows:

Figures from around that time also estimated that the companies spent £8m a year sponsoring sporting events and teams (excluding Formula One) and a further £70m on Formula One in the UK.[30]

The £25 million spent in the UK amounted to approximately $0.60 USD per person in 2002. The 15.12 billion spent in the United States in 2003 amounted to more than $45 for every person in the United States, more than $36 million per day, and more than $290 for each U.S. adult smoker.

Many governments now require tobacco packaging to carry health warnings

The European Union and World Health Organization (WHO) have both specified that the advertising of tobacco should not be allowed. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which came into effect on 27 February 2005, requires that all of the 168 countries that agreed to the treaty ban tobacco advertising unless their constitution forbade it.

Some countries also impose legal requirements on the packaging of tobacco products. For example, in the countries of the European Union, Turkey, Australia[31] Iran [32] and South Africa, cigarette packs must be prominently labeled with the health risks associated with smoking.[33] Canada, Australia, Thailand, Iceland, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and some EU countries have also imposed labels upon cigarette packs warning smokers of the effects, and they include graphic images of the potential health effects of smoking. In Canada, cards are also inserted into cigarette packs, explaining reasons not to smoke and different methods of quitting smoking.



In Zimbabwe, tobacco advertising is still permitted on national television.

South Africa

In South Africa, the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act was passed in 1999. This act bans all advertising and promotion of tobacco products, including sponsorship and free distribution of tobacco products.


Hong Kong

Tobacco advertising on Hong Kong television was outlawed on 1 December 1990, when the territory was still a British colony. However, some sporting events were still allowed to be sponsored by tobacco companies until it was abandoned by the government in July 1999. It took some years before it was removed from buses and trams until it was completely banned in November 2009.[34]


Indonesian Wikisource has original text related to this article:

In Indonesia, tobacco advertising is still allowed, but showing the cigarette packaging is outlawed. Broadcast of tobacco advertising on Indonesian television is only allowed from 9:30 pm until 5:00 am. Smoking warnings are also shown at the end of the advertisement explaining "Smoking can cause cancer, heart attack, impotency and pregnancy and fetal disorders". As of late December 2013, before January 1, 2014, a new warning is shown explaining "Smoking kills you" with an "18+" sign after it. In 2014, the Indonesian government halted the branding of cigarettes as "light" or "mild" on all smoking packages and has decided to place graphic images on the cigarette packs to show the adverse long-term effects of excessive smoking.


In Malaysia, the displaying of cigarette packets in advertisements with a general warning on long-time smoking that came into effect in June 1976 has been banned since 1995. However, this has not stopped tobacco companies from advertising their products. There are also restrictions on tobacco advertising after the ban of displaying of cigarette packaging, print media advertising is restricted to only one page and advertising on television should not be more than 15 seconds. They have found ways to continue to build their brands by using brand names for a bistro and cybercafes such as Benson & Hedges Bistro and Sampoerna A International Cyberworld, for stationery, accessories, clothing like Dunhill, Marlboro Classics, Davidoff, Perilly's, Pall Mall, John Player Specials, Winfield and Winston. Tobacco companies also sponsor holiday tours like Mild Seven Seafarers Club, Peter Stuyvesant Travel and Tours, Kent Holidays and Salem Holidays as well as concerts and entertainment events. All of these are indirect advertising strategies employed by tobacco companies. Tobacco advertising continued without the display of cigarette packaging until January 2003, when the Malaysian federal government banned even such indirect advertising of tobacco brands, except in certain establishments licensed to sell tobacco products. Formula One Grand Prix and other sporting events are still allowed to use tobacco sponsorship. In 2009, Malaysian government halted the branding of cigarettes as "light" or "mild" on all smoking packages and has decided to place graphic images on the cigarette packs to show the adverse long-term effects of excessive smoking.


Bangladesh became a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on February 27, 2005.

In Bangladesh, tobacco advertising is prohibited in all print and electronic media, including at the point-of-sale. Free and discounted tobacco products are prohibited, but internet tobacco sales and tobacco products bearing non-tobacco brand names are allowed. Although sponsorship by the tobacco industry is not completely prohibited, publicity of the sponsorship is prohibited.


In 2002, the Pakistani government restricted tobacco advertising in all media; Point of Sale Advertising is still legal however there are some restrictions regarding size are imposed. Some cigarette companies used to provide free cigarettes to patrons of tobacco shops; that, too, was also forbidden in the 2010 regulations. The government have also banned the sale of tobacco to underage people in an effort to crack down on underage smoking.


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In the Philippines, tobacco advertising is still allowed, but is now limited to point-of-sale and sari-sari store advertising and promotions in other establishments like restaurants, bars and in select billiard halls. Websites that feature tobacco (like Marlboro) are only limited to smokers 18 years old and above, and minors are not allowed to visit the website.

Formerly until 30 June 2008, tobacco advertising was shown on television, radio, print media, movie theaters, billboards and even sponsoring events. With that plenty of cigarette brands were created and advertised and some are remembered for their jingles and slogans. Most of the advertisements aired on television have portrayed young males almost smoking with the filter tip already in the lips and ready for smoking by lighting up with a lighter, leading to concerns by parents over their children mimicking the actions shown in the aforementioned advertisements.

However, when Republic Act 9211 or the "Act Regulating the Packaging, Use, Sale Distribution and Advertisements of Tobacco Products and for Other Purposes" was passed on 23 June 2003 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,[35] tobacco advertising became limited starting on 1 January 2007. Since 1 July 1993 until 30 June 2008, all tobacco advertising was required to display a health warning by the government indicating that "Cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health" (it is still continued for other areas not affected by the ban and on cigarette packaging prior to March 3, 2016, which was replaced by graphic health warnings). Television (including Philippine cable channels, whether broadcasting foreign or local content) and radio stations would not air tobacco advertising from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time (before R.A. 9211 was passed, it was from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.), with similar restrictions also implemented in cinemas showing G, PG-13 and R-13 rated movies. Advertising tobacco in print media is now only catered to men 18 years old and above, mostly in men's magazines and newspapers.

Because of the R.A. 9211 being passed, there was a timescale on tobacco advertisements being banned.

Date What was banned
1 January 2007 Television and radio advertisements
1 July 2007 Movie theater and outdoor advertising
1 July 2008 Print media and sponsorship of events like concerts and sporting events

The R.A. 9211 also restricts advertising on public vehicles like taxis, bus and even the PNR, MRT and the LRT (buses, MRT and the LRT are most common with wrap advertising) and also banned cartoon characters in tobacco advertising that might affect children (like Joe Camel, which was popular in the U.S. and in European countries before it was banned; it is still unclear if this cartoon character went into advertising in the Philippines before the R.A. 9211 was passed). The law also prevents celebrities from endorsing tobacco products in advertising; prior to the R.A. 9211, actors Richard Gomez and the late Rudy Fernandez had promoted a cigarette brand.


In Singapore, tobacco advertising was completely banned on 1 March 1971, whereby all kinds of advertising on newspapers and magazines was strictly prohibited, under the Prohibition of Advertisements relating to Smoking Act, 1970. Tobacco advertisements on radio, television and on neon signs ceased on 31 December 1970, after which only anti-smoking slogans were permitted to be broadcast on television and radio. With the ban on tobacco advertisements for the purpose of anti-smoking, the Ministry of Culture had appealed to coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, canteens, snack bars and bars to co-operate with the government to remove all posters, signs and other forms of advertisements relating to smoking. A Smoking Advertisement Unit was set up by the Ministry, and officers were located in areas that had any type of tobacco advertisement within the few months before the blanket ban on tobacco advertising kicked off on 1 March 1971.[36] Twenty-one years later, in 1992, cigarette advertising in foreign magazines was banned in Singapore.

Singapore similarly requires cigarette manufacturers to print images of mouths, feet and blood vessels adversely affected by smoking.[37][38]


Article 9 of Taiwan's "Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act" prohibits any form of advertising for any form of tobacco product. Taiwan also prohibits other forms of tobacco promotion, such as "using tobacco products as gift or prize for the sale of other products or for the promotion of other events," or "packaging tobacco products together with other products for sale." Depending on the specific violation, Article 26 penalizes violators with fines ranging from NTD 100,000 to NTD 2,500,000 for each violation.[39]

United Arab Emirates

In the United Arab Emirates, tobacco advertisements are forbidden under federal anti-tobacco law No 15 of 2009, effective from January 21, 2014.


All tobacco advertising and sponsorship on television has been banned within the European Union since 1991 under the Television Without Frontiers Directive (1989).[40] This ban was extended by the Tobacco Advertising Directive, which took effect in July 2005 to cover other forms of media such as the internet, print media, radio, and sports events like F1. The directive does not include advertising in cinemas and on billboards or using merchandising – or tobacco sponsorship of cultural and sporting events which are purely local, with participants coming from only one Member State[41] as these fall outside the jurisdiction of the European Commission. However, most member states have transposed the directive with national laws that are wider in scope than the directive and cover local advertising. A 2008 European Commission report concluded that the directive had been successfully transposed into national law in all EU member states, and that these laws were well implemented.[42]

In 2003, the European Union halted the branding of cigarettes as "light" or "mild", saying that this misleads consumers about the dangers of smoking. Stark health warnings such as "Smoking Kills" must now cover at least 30 percent of the front of each packet and 40 percent of the back, and an even greater area where messages are printed in more than one national language.[43]

Within the European Union only Germany and Bulgaria are still allowing billboards advertising tobacco use. Tobacco smoking is still advertised in special magazines, during sporting events, in gas stations and stores, and in more rare cases on television. Some nations, including the UK and Australia, have begun anti-smoking advertisements to counter the effects of tobacco advertising.

In Ukraine, tobacco advertising "in all printed mass media" is forbidden since 1 January 2010.[44]

Some countries, like Finland and Greece have outlawed tobacco advertising on television and radio prior to the ban in 1991.


Sample of French plain tobacco packaging as of december 2016.

As a result of the enactment of the 2015 plain tobacco packaging bill, in January 2017 France will become the second country in the world, after Australia, to require tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging.[45]


Tobacco advertising on radio, television and billboards is illegal. In July 2009, in-store tobacco advertising and displays of tobacco were made illegal – Ireland being the first country in the EU (and third in the world, after Canada and Iceland) to do so.[46] Ireland had planned to adopt the Australian model of plain-packaged cigarettes by the middle of 2015 but is yet to happen.

United Kingdom

The relevant EU directives banning tobacco advertising apply within the United Kingdom, in addition to UK laws restricting tobacco advertising.

Surreal Benson & Hedges poster at Victoria Station, London, c.1978

The first calls to restrict advertising came in 1962 from the Royal College of Physicians, who highlighted the health problems and recommended stricter laws on the sale and advertising of tobacco products. In 1971, an agreement between the government and the tobacco industry saw the inclusion of health warnings on all cigarette packets. All television commercials for cigarettes were banned on 1 August 1965, although commercials for loose tobacco and cigars continued until 1991.[47][48]

Non-television advertising campaigns were still allowed in the UK but came under stricter guidelines in 1986, which in particular, prevented adverts from actually showing a person smoking. The tobacco producers responded with increasingly indirect and abstract campaigns, among which those of Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut became particularly recognisable. Until about the mid-1990s many corner shops, newsagents and off licences had on their shop signs prominent branding by cigarette brands such as Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut, Regal etc. until the practice was outlawed.

As part of their 1997 election campaign, the Labour Party led by Tony Blair pledged to ban all advertising of tobacco products. When it was not included in their legislative programme it was introduced by Lib Dem peer Tim Clement-Jones and was passed as the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002,[49] which banned most remaining forms of advertising according to the following timescale:

Date What was banned
14 February 2003 General advertising
14 May 2003 Promotions
30 July 2003 Sponsorship of sporting events within the UK
May 2004 Particular advertisements in tobacconists
21 December 2004 Large adverts in shops, pubs and clubs
31 July 2005 Sponsorship of excepted global events; brandsharing

It was banned in Scotland by the Scottish parliament in 2001.[50]

Several exemptions from this legislation remain:

While cigarette vending machines were still allowed in licensed premises (until 1 October 2011 in England, 1 February 2012 in Wales, 1 March 2012 in Northern Ireland and 29 April 2013 in Scotland[52] when a full ban came into force) they were only allowed to display a picture of what was available (one image per brand) and no advertisements could be included on the machine.

Finally, cigarette vending machines were then banned in public areas of all British pubs, clubs and restaurants, with a fine of £2500 for non-compliance.[53]

Famous UK tobacco advertising campaigns have included "You're never alone with a Strand" (a disastrous campaign which led to Strand Cigarettes being taken off the market) and "Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet".


In Italy, advertising of tobacco products has been banned since 1962,[54] though ad in magazines remained legal since the late 70s; with a few subsequent changes to the law in 1983[55] and 2004.[56]

The Netherlands

Tobacco advertising is only allowed in and around special tobacco stores, selling more than 90 kinds of tobacco products. Outside, no more than 2 square meters of advertisements is allowed. Inside the tobacco store, a limited amount of advertising is allowed. Salesman can promote brands inside these stores, however their promotional material only contains dummy-cigarettes. Any other kind of advertising is a serious offense under Dutch law.


In Serbia, tobacco advertising on television, on billboards and in printed media is banned, but advertisements for cigarettes are found within shops and kiosks.[57]

North America

United States

In the United States, in the 1950s and 1960s, cigarette brands were frequently sponsors of television programs. One of the most famous television jingles of the era came from an advertisement for Winston cigarettes. The slogan "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should!" proved to be catchy. Another popular slogan from the 1960s was "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch!," which was used to advertise Tareyton cigarettes. America's first regular television news program, Camel News Caravan, was sponsored by Camel Cigarettes and featured an ashtray on the desk in front of the newscaster and the Camel logo behind him. The show ran from 1949 to 1956.

In June 1967, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that programs broadcast on a television station that discussed smoking and health were insufficient to offset the effects of paid advertisements that were broadcast for five to ten minutes each day. "We hold that the fairness doctrine is applicable to such advertisements," the Commission said. The FCC decision, upheld by the courts, essentially required television stations to air anti-smoking advertisements at no cost to the organizations providing such advertisements.

In April 1970, President Nixon signed into law the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banning the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio starting on 2 January 1971.[58] The Virginia Slims brand was the last commercial shown, with "a 60-second revue from flapper to Female Lib", shown at 11:59 p.m. on 1 January during a break on The Tonight Show.[59] Smokeless tobacco ads, on the other hand, remained on the air until a ban took effect on 28 August 1986.[60] Recently, even further restrictions took effect under the newly enacted Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Effective 22 June 2010, the new regulations prohibit tobacco companies from sponsoring sports, music, and other cultural events. Also, tobacco companies can no longer display their logos or advertise their products on T-shirts, hats, or other apparel. Eventually, the law is planned to require almost all tobacco advertisements to consist of black text on a white background, but the constitutionality of that requirement has come under scrutiny.[61]

After 1971, most tobacco advertising was done in magazines, newspapers, and on billboards. Since the introduction of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, all packaging and advertisements must display a health warning from the Surgeon General. In November 2003, tobacco companies and magazine publishers agreed to cease the placement of advertisements in school library editions of four magazines with a large group of young readers: Time, People, Sports Illustrated, and Newsweek.[62]

A 1994 report by the Surgeon General, "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People," asserted: "When young people no longer want to smoke the epidemic itself will die." [63] A critical task of public health was counteracting the "indoctrination" of the young when they were most susceptible. Hence the report dismissed as "misguided" the debate as to whether cigarette promotion "caused" young people to smoke; the conclusion was that "Whether causal or not, [promotion] fosters the uptake of smoking, initiating for many a dismal and relentless chain of events"[64]

Passed in 1997, the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement bans outdoor, billboard, and public transportation advertising of cigarettes in 46 states. It also prohibits tobacco advertising that targets young people, the usage of cartoons (such as the Marlboro Man or Joe Camel) in particular.[65] In the states which have not signed the agreement, billboards are a major venue of cigarette advertising (10% of Michigan billboards advertised alcohol and tobacco, according to the Detroit Free Press[66]).

In 2010, the Tobacco Control Act became active and placed new restrictions on tobacco marketing, including extensive constraints concerning the circulation of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to minors. Newly effective with this act, "audio advertisements are not permitted to contain any music or sound effects, while video advertisements are limited to static black text on a white background. Any audio soundtrack accompanying a video advertisement is limited to words only, with no music or sound effects."[67]


In Canada, the advertising of tobacco products was prohibited by the Tobacco Products Control Act as of 1988 and all tobacco products must show attributed warning signs on all packaging. Immediately following the passing of the legislation through parliament, RJR-MacDonald (RJR-MacDonald Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General)) filed suit against the Government of Canada through the Quebec Superior Court. It was argued that the act, which originally called for unattributed warnings, was a violation of the right to free speech. In 1991, the Quebec Superior Court ruled in favour of the tobacco companies, deciding that the act violated their right to free speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as being ultra vires. The Crown subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

On 21 September 1995 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Tobacco Products Control Act as legal, forcing the tobacco companies operating in Canada to print hazard warnings on all cigarette packs. However, the Court struck down the requirement that the health warnings be unattributed, as this requirement violated the right to free speech, further ruling that it was in the federal government's jurisdiction to pass such laws, as it fell under the peace, order and good government clause. Recently, sin taxes have been added to tobacco products, with the objective of decreasing usage by making the products less affordable. Currently, radio ads, television commercials, event sponsoring, promotional giveaways and other types of brand advertising are prohibited as well as in-store product displays. However, certain forms of advertising are permitted, such as print advertisements in magazines with an adult readership of 85% minimum.

Until 2003, tobacco manufacturers got around this restriction by sponsoring cultural and sporting events, such as the Benson & Hedges Symphony of Fire (a fireworks display in Toronto and Vancouver), which allowed the manufacturers' names and logos to appear in advertisements sponsoring the events, and at the venues. The ban on tobacco sponsorship was a major factor that led to the near-cancellation of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and the du Maurier Ltd Classic, a women's golf tournament on the LPGA tour (now known as the Canadian Women's Open).

In May 2008, retail displays of cigarettes in convenience stores in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia have been outlawed. They are now all hidden.[68]


Although Mexico has reduced its smoking population by more than half since 1980, it was not until 2008 that the General Law on Tobacco Control was passed by Congress. This law and the Regulations of the General Law on Tobacco Control expressly state that publicity and promotion of tobacco products can only be made through adult aimed magazines, personal communication by mail or displayed in establishments exclusively for adults. In these cases, it is prohibited to understate in any way the health risks of tobacco smoking or associate smoking, explicitly or in a vague manner, with athletic, sportive or popularity images. Since this law came into effect in 2009, all cigarette packages in Mexico contain health warnings and graphic images, created and approved by the Secretariat of Health, that must cover 50% of the pack.[69][70]



In 1972 the federal government introduced mandatory health warnings for radio and television cigarette advertisements. In September 1976 a total ban on tobacco & cigarette advertisements on TV & radio commenced. In December 1989 tobacco advertising was banned from all locally produced print media — this left only cinema, billboard and sponsorship advertising as the only forms of direct tobacco advertising.

In 1992 the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 expressly prohibited almost all forms of tobacco advertising in Australia, including the sponsorship of sporting or other cultural events by cigarette brands. Contracts were to be honoured and so domestic sporting and cultural events were allowed to have their corporate sponsorships run their course, but they were no longer allowed to enter into new or renew existing sponsorships. Therefore, by 1998, all domestic sponsorships had expired naturally. However, the Act gave the Federal Minister for Health and Ageing the right to grant exemptions to events "of international significance" that "would be likely to result in the event not being held in Australia" should tobacco advertising be forbidden. A clause in the Act forbade events from applying for an exemption after 1 October 2000, unless they had previously been granted one. By 2006, this had led to only two events being eligible – the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. A further clause removed the Ministers right to grant any exemptions for any event held after 1 October 2006: the 2007 Australian Grand Prix therefore featured no tobacco advertising of any sort.

As of December 2013 in Australia, most cigarette packaging carried graphic images of the effects of smoking as well as information about the names and numbers of chemicals and annual death rates. Television ads included video footage of smokers struggling to breathe in hospital. Since then, the number of smokers has been reduced by one quarter.

In April 2010, the Australian government announced plans to prohibit the use of tobacco industry logos, colours, brand imagery or promotional text of tobacco product packaging from 2012, requiring that brand names and product names be displayed in a standard drab brown colour, font style and position in a policy known as "plain packaging".[71] This legislation, the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011, was challenged in the High Court by multiple tobacco manufacturers on the grounds that it exceeded the legislative capacity of Parliament by virtue of s 51(xxxi) of the Constitution. This challenge was dismissed by the High Court.[72]

New Zealand

Tobacco advertising in New Zealand was outlawed with the passage of the Smokefree Amendment Act 1990.

Prior to this, in 1963 advertisements for tobacco products were withdrawn from radio and television. A decade later in 1973, cigarette advertising was banned on billboards and in cinemas, and print media advertising was restricted to half a newspaper page.

In 1995 all remaining tobacco advertising and sponsorship was banned except for point-of-sale advertising and some tobacco sponsorship exemptions. Point-of-sale advertising ceased on 11 December 1998.

Upon point-of-sale advertising being finally banned in New Zealand there are other examples of tobacco advertising that will still remain. These include the use of tobacco packets as advertisements, exempted tobacco sponsorships, tobacco advertising and sponsorship in imported magazines and on cable television as well as the usual tobacco imagery in movies and television.

Health warnings – generally graphic images of the harmful effects of smoking – are also placed on all tobacco products.

Anti-smoking advertising

Anti-smoking groups, particularly cancer charities, along with many government health departments have attempted to counter the advertising of tobacco by creating their own advertisements to highlight the negative effects of smoking. The earliest commercials mainly focused on aiding smoking cessation, the increased risk of lung cancer and the problems associated with passive smoking. However, they have become increasingly hard-hitting over the years, with some campaigns now centered around decreased physical attractiveness[73] and the risk of erectile dysfunction.[74] These are more targeted towards younger smokers than previous campaigns. The British government spent £31 million in 2003 as part of their anti-smoking campaign.[75]

In 2005 the European Union launched the "For a life without tobacco" campaign in all its constituent countries to help people quit smoking.[76]

In 2007 and 2008, the New York City Department of Health launched a series of anti-tobacco ad campaigns to promote the city's Quitline and a free nicotine patch and gum program. The first TV spots, "Smoking is Eating You Alive" and "Smoking is Eating You and Your Kids Alive," depict the damage smoking can do to the body. The ads were noted for their graphic nature[77] as well as their effectiveness. The second series of ads launched 16 April 2008.[78] In these, a 58-year-old woman and longtime smoker called "Marie" describes the amputations and pain she has undergone since developing Buerger's disease, a condition that limits blood flow through the arteries and which was tied to her smoking habit.[79]

The Marlboro Man was one of the most successful cigarette advertising campaigns, lasting from the 1960s to the 1990s. The Marlboro brand was promoted by various cowboys, with Wayne McLaren posing for some promotional photographs in 1976. He died of lung cancer in 1992, having appeared in a television spot showing him in a hospital bed. That image was juxtaposed with him during the promotional shoot, with a voiceover warning about the dangers of smoking.[80]

Plain tobacco packaging


Tobacco advertising has been hand-in-hand with many sports internationally. Below are some sports.

Formula One auto racing

Gold Leaf-sponsored Lotus from 1971
Marlboro sponsored Ferrari (photo from the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix)
A Team Penske Marlboro-sponsored car in 1994
A Team Penske Verizon-sponsored car in 2009, with an unbranded Marlboro scheme.

Ever since the first appearance of the Red, Gold and White colors of the Imperial Tobacco's Gold Leaf brand sponsorship livery at the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix,[81] teams, drivers and circuits of Formula One (F1) for years had been heavily dependent on the financial backing of sponsors and from the arrival of Gold Leaf for many decades the tobacco industry played a major role in sponsoring the sport.[82] In 1976, West Germany began a trend in outlawing tobacco sponsorships in motor races, followed by the United Kingdom in 1984, starting with major races and outlawing the rest of the sponsorships in later years. In 1992 France did the same.[83] As anti-smoking legislation began to tighten in many parts of the world F1 became an even more important opportunity for cigarette brand promotion. The negotiating skills of the F1 leadership (especially Bernie Ecclestone) were such that in many jurisdictions F1 achieved some exemptions from the rules.[83] However, there is now a blanket ban on advertising in Europe, and the cars are not allowed to show any links with the tobacco companies. As a result, tobacco advertising started to exit F1. In 2000, WilliamsF1 became the first major team to run without tobacco sponsorship,[84] and McLaren later replaced the West brand and no longer have any tobacco sponsors. Renault ended the deal with Mild Seven after the 2006 season, and in the same year British American Tobacco, owners of British American Racing team[85] withdrew from F1, selling the team to Honda. Ferrari on the other hand renewed their arrangements with Philip Morris in 2005 and later in 2011.[86][87]

Through the arrangement, the Marlboro brand in 2007 was legally visible prominently on the cars, jumpsuits and pit crew at three races: at the Bahrain,[88] Monaco and Chinese Grands Prix. Ferrari was the only team backed by a cigarette brand in the 2007 Formula One season. Since the start of the 2008 season, Ferrari has no longer carried Marlboro logos at any races, even those at which tobacco advertising is allowed. It is therefore unlikely that any F1 car will ever directly advertise tobacco again. However the barcode symbol that was used for some time was "subliminally" suggestive of the Marlboro branding, and signified their sponsorship. For part of 2010 and onwards, Ferrari no longer had the barcode symbol; the only signification of sponsorship was the team name, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, although the team's logo showed the left side of the Marlboro chevron.[89] However, from the 2011 British Grand Prix, Ferrari dropped the Marlboro sponsor from their official name, and reverted to the name Scuderia Ferrari as their official name, due to ongoing pressure from people against tobacco sponsorship.[90]

IndyCar auto racing

After a brief stint as the title sponsor for the USAC Championship Trail in 1971, Marlboro joined the sport of Indy car racing in 1986.

The "Marlboro chevron" livery first appeared on the car of Emerson Fittipaldi during the 1986 CART season and 1986 Indianapolis 500. Patrick Racing expanded the sponsorship to two cars in 1987, and in 1990, it moved to the Penske Team. The white and red Marlboro livery became one of the most recognized in the sport, and Marlboro increased their participation by providing title sponsorship for individual races (Marlboro 500 and Marlboro Grand Prix), contingency sponsorships, and bonus awards programs (Marlboro Million). The company also provided extensive ticket promotions and hosted large hospitality engagements at races.

Penske's cars were painted in the full Marlboro livery through 2009, and the team adopted the moniker "Marlboro Team Penske." The paint schemes remained largely consistent, with slight variations over the years, namely a reduction of brand lettering size in the final few years. Penske carried the sponsorship over to the Indy Racing League starting in 2002. In international CART/IRL events where tobacco advertising was banned, as well as IRL races in 2001, 2008, and 2009 (because of MSA restrictions), the cars kept the colors but simply stated the generic "Team Penske" on the sidepods.

Other major tobacco sponsors in the sport during the 1980s through 2000s included Players Ltd., KOOL, and Hollywood. Smokeless tobacco companies also sponsored several entries, with Foyt in a longer-term association with Copenhagen, and Skoal also appearing on cars during the 1980s.

NASCAR auto racing

NASCAR's top series, the NASCAR Grand National Series, found sponsorship from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) in the early 1970s following the United States ban on television advertising of cigarettes. The "Winston Cup" became the title of the series, and later, some other regional series under NASCAR were also sponsored by the tobacco company (for example, the "Winston West" series). In the mid-1970s, some races began to get partial television coverage, frequently on the ABC sports variety show, Wide World of Sports. While Winston was not able to do commercial advertisements, their name was all over television during races.

Over the many years of their relationship with NASCAR, Winston sponsored several races and prize programs including the Winston 500, The Winston all-star race, the Winston Western 500 and the 1985–97 Winston Million, which awarded a million dollars to a driver who could win a "small slam" of the sport's four Grand Slam events in the same year. From 1998 to 2002, the Winston No Bull 5, a more complex award system, was used. Each year, there were five races (initially the four majors and Indianapolis) selected to be a part of this promotion. Each driver who finished in the top 5 in the previous No Bull 5 race was eligible to win in the next race selected, along with a fan. If one of the eligible drivers won that race, they were awarded with a million dollar bonus.

Jimmy Spencer's RJR-sponsored Camel Ford in 1997

In addition, R.J. Reynolds sponsored its own car for three years with Camel colors. It was driven by Jimmy Spencer.

On 5 February 2003, R. J. Reynolds informed NASCAR that their five-year extension to sponsor NASCAR's premier division signed in July 2002 could be dissolved because of economic concerns at the company.

On 19 June 2003, NASCAR announced at the NASDAQ MarketSite a new deal with Nextel Communications starting in the 2004 season, as the familiar red was replaced with Nextel yellow (Nextel's new colours were announced after the deal had been signed) and by the end of the first season, it was acquired by Sprint. Starting in September 2005, NASCAR began replacing Nextel logos with Sprint logos started appearing in reference to the new sponsor.

When the advertising was rebranded with the Sprint banner, the Turn 11 bridge at Watkins Glen International was rebranded, with new Sprint advertising featuring the tagline "Sprint ahead".[91]

Smaller tobacco companies not covered by the Master Settlement Agreement have attempted sponsorship for portions of the season or circuits. Bailey's, a small tobacco company based in Virginia, featured in 2005 sponsorship of selected races for the Bobby Hamilton Racing team based in Tennessee, and has been the longtime sponsor of the Bailey's 300 at Martinsville Speedway for late model race cars in the region which race at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks.

Under the Master Settlement Agreement, NASCAR was forced to implement a minimum age of 18 in 2002 for the three national series, as they were often paired with each other or other national motorsport series at race meets. Notably, Kyle Busch was ejected from a Truck Series race at Fontana in 2001 for being underage, as the CART race that weekend featured Marlboro, Kool, and Player's sponsorships.

In 2008, during a non-NASCAR sanctioned series, which some NASCAR teams use for driver development, five drivers under the age of 18, most notably Trevor Bayne and Joey Coulter, both of whom eventually won in NASCAR's national series, were forced to sit out a USAR ProCup race at The Milwaukee Mile, because tobacco regulations prohibited underage drivers from racing at the INDYCAR race, which had cars carrying unbranded Marlboro sponsorship from Team Penske. USAR asked the prohibited drivers to participate in the Thursday test before INDYCAR arrived, and allowed an age-legal driver to qualify the car and race, provided they start at the rear of the field. The prohibited drivers would score points for the weekend.[92]

In 2013, with tobacco all but out of North American motorsport, NASCAR changed the minimum age to 16 in the Truck Series for any circuit 1.25 miles or shorter, along with Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, similar to rules in regional series. Two drivers, Chase Elliott and Erik Jones, won at 17 years of age in 2013. Cole Custer, 16, won in 2014.[93]

Nicorette tobacco cessation product sponsorship

In 2005, GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturer of Goody's Headache Powder, a NASCAR sponsor since 1977, expanded their long-term sponsorship by adding their Nicorette brand of smoking cessation product as a NASCAR official sponsor, and signed with Chip Ganassi Racing and also longtime Goody's Headache Powder (another GSK brand) spokesman and former smoker, Richard Petty would lead their "Commit to Quit" program.

GSK changed its marketing program in 2006, moving to other brands with Ganassi Racing, while Jeff Gordon became GSK's Nicorette leader, with a Nicorette car for two races.


Snooker was badly hit by the British ban on tobacco sponsorship, with several tournaments losing their financial backers. These included:

The World Snooker Championship was given special dispensation from the European Union directive until 2005. The Masters went without any sponsorship in 2004, before receiving the backing of Rileys Club the following year. Some players spoke out against the ban, worried that the game would not be able to survive without the financial backing of the tobacco companies.[94][95]

Other sports

Various sports have relied on sponsorship money from tobacco companies, both for the participants and for competitions. In the United Kingdom, tobacco companies moved into the expanding world of sports sponsorship on a major scale after television advertising of cigarettes was banned in 1965, with the intent of getting round the ban and gaining a de facto free plug for a mass TV audience.

With the restrictions placed on general advertising, tobacco companies have moved to new promotions to establish new customers and maintain existing ones. For example, Altria has a strategy of growth by promotions that build brand equity through adult consumer experiences.[98] The intent is to reinforce brand loyalty by building consumer communities.

One example is Marlboro's "Outwit the West", a 'by-invitation if you're a smoker' 4-member team-based 'competition' with a series of cryptic brain teasers. The top 20 teams get invited to the Marlboro ranch, a location where it's 'okay to smoke' and food, drinks and activities are paid for by the company. The team with the most correct answers shares a one million dollar prize. Thousands of teams participate.

More generally, Marlboro has been using its mailing database (estimated at 26 million in 2005[99] ) to promote directly with giveaways and general invitations to the Marlboro Ranch. Reinforcement is provided by branded products and by peers.

Social Networking and the Internet. EPC CIGAR COMPANY launched a social networking and internet campaign to market cigars.[100]


The actual effectiveness of tobacco advertisement is widely documented. According to Henry Saffer, public health experts say that tobacco advertising increases cigarette consumption and there is much empirical literature that finds a significant effect of tobacco advertising on smoking, especially in children.[101][102][103][104][105][106][107][108] However, Saffer and Chaloupka's empirical results are largely due to "data mining" and do not account for endogeneity of bans.[109] A meta-analysis of the econometric literature is found in J.P. Nelson, "Cigarette Advertising Regulation: A Meta-Analysis," International Review of Law and Economics, 26(2), June 2006, pp. 195–226. A critical review of longitudinal studies is found in J. P. Nelson, "What is Learned from Longitudinal Studies of Advertising and Youth Drinking and Smoking? A Critical Assessment," International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health, 7(3), March 2010, pp. 870–926.[110]

Belomorkanal – Russian cigarettes 
Hans Rudi Erdt: Problem Cigarettes, 1912 
French Painted Mural Advertisement 
Tobacco display in Munich 
Advertisement for "Murad" Turkish cigarettes 1918 
Advertisement for "Egyptian Deities" cigarettes 1919 
Veterans Stadium Philadelphia 1986 
Early 20th Century Cigarettes in Durham, NC 

See also


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Examples of Tobacco Advertising
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