Why we need a comprehensive TAPS ban

Smoke Free Life Coalition calls for a Comprehensive ban on tobacco products advertising, promotion and sponsorship. It is scientifically proven that marketing leads towards larger numbers of smokers among youths and the comprehensive TAPS ban is one of the most successful policies for reducing the tobacco consumption. Support the initiative “NO, to the tobacco products advertising” on the following address.

Despite the existing restrictions in the law for tobacco products advertising in the digital and print media, the tobacco industry is attacking Bulgarian citizen with marketing and promotion slogans that normalise and legitimise smoking making it an acceptable social practice. The main victims of these strategies are children and youths. According to a WHO report Bulgaria is in the second place in Europe by the number of 15 year-olds who smoke at least once a week. According to the 2016 report 30% of the girls and 21% of the boys in Bulgaria smoke.

According to article 13 of WHO’s the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control the countries that have ratified the convention admit that the comprehensive ban of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship would reduce consumption of tobacco products. In this connection 5 years after the convention enters into force, each country is supposed to take appropriate legislative, executive, administrative and/or other measure in this line with this recommendation. Bulgaria has ratified the document by law on 18th of October 2005. It is paradoxical how article 30 of the Tobacco, Tobacco Products and Related Products Law has banned the selling of cigarettes to person under 18 but advertising of these same products is allowed. In practice children and youths are daily exposed to the influence of advertising of a product that they can’t purchase but poses a huge risk to their health.

More and more studies confirm that tobacco advertising and sponsorship increase the cases of smoking initiation. A study from the UK conducted between 1999 and 2004 establishes that with each form of tobacco advertising recognized by youths, the chance of smoking initation increases by 7%. The effect of the different form of tobacco promotions on children is similar. According to data from a study conducted in the US, the existence of tobacco products promotions increases the chance for youths to transition from experimentation to regular usage.

A study from Australia and the US show that tobacco products advertising in the points of sales on shelves and displays, make the tobacco products look like something socially acceptable and give the impression that those products are easily available to children. The lack of tobacco products displays in the retail stores will reduce the impulsive purchases of cigarettes.

Studies show that a ban of open tobacco products displays in the POS is not a burden to the retail stores and could even be considered an advantage. This measure has been widely implemented in many countries: Australia, Ireland, Norway, Great Britain, Luxemburg, Finland, Croatia, Greece, Turkey and others. Retail store owners in these countries state that storing the tobacco products in closed shelves and displays reduces the thefts, it does not require a huge investment, does not cause inconvenience and hasn’t had an considerable effect on their income.

Even though TI sponsorship supports seemingly noble causes, these initiatives also have a detrimental effect on society. Tobacco companies make use of the sponsorship programs to ameliorate their public image and present their products or brands to even more people in the meantime. Some tobacco companies sponsor and start smoking prevention programs among youths. Such programs, financed by the TI are ineffective and do not lead to reduction of smoking prevalence, in fact according to some scientific data they could even encourage students to smoke. In 2000 Canada introduces the first wave of sponsorship restrictions in its territory. In just three years the smoking prevalence among youth has dropped from 25% to 22% – approximately 60 000 less smokers among the teenagers.

TI’s claims that a ban on tobacco products advertising won’t reduce its consumption are disproved by explicit evidence. A study including 30 developing countries conducted between 1990 and 2005 shows that the comprehensive advertising ban has lead to 23,5% drop in smoking consumption. TI’s front groups reject the obvious fact that tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship increases that cases of smoking initiation. An overview of ten longitudinal studies from 2008 including 12 000 youths, concludes that “tobacco advertising and promotion increases the chance of youths to start smoking”. Advertising in the POS has also been proved to encourage youths towards picking up smoking.