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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2619

Media is to give something useful and valuable to the wise people, and not the ignorant, on this World No Tobacco Day – May 31st

By Manjari Peiris

The World No Tobacco Day is commemorated on May 31st, every year. The theme decided by the World Health Organization (WHO) this year is: “Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship”, which is implementation of Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the international public health treaty adopted by WHO in 2005.

The purpose of setting up guidelines is to assist Parties in meeting their obligations under Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. They draw on the best available evidence and the experience of Parties that have successfully implemented effective measures against tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. They also give Parties guidance for introducing and enforcing a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship or, for those Parties that are not in a position to undertake a comprehensive ban owing to their constitutions or constitutional principles, for applying restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship that are as comprehensive as possible.

A comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, should cover:

• All advertising and promotion, as well as sponsorship, without exemption;

• Direct and indirect advertising, promotion and sponsorship;

• Acts that aim at promotion and acts that have or are likely to have a promotional
Effect;

• Promotion of tobacco products and the use of tobacco;

• Commercial communications and commercial recommendations and actions;

• Contribution of any kind to any event, activity or individual;

• advertising and promotion of tobacco brand names and all corporate promotion; and traditional media (print, television and radio) and all media platforms, including Internet, mobile telephones and other new technologies as well as films.

Packaging and product design are important elements of advertising and promotion. Parties should consider adopting plain packaging requirements to eliminate the effects of advertising or promotion on packaging.

Packaging, individual cigarettes or other tobacco products should carry no advertising or promotion, including design features that make products attractive.

Internet sales of tobacco should be banned as they inherently involve tobacco advertising and promotion.

It is increasingly common for tobacco companies to seek to portray themselves as good corporate citizens by making contributions to deserving causes or by otherwise promoting “socially responsible” elements of their business practices.

Some tobacco companies make financial or in-kind contributions to organizations, such as community, health, welfare or environmental organizations, either directly or through other entities. Such contributions fall within the definition of tobacco sponsorship in Article 1(g) of the Convention and should be prohibited as part of a comprehensive ban, because the aim, effect or likely effect of such a contribution is to promote a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly.

Tobacco companies may also seek to engage in “socially responsible” business practices (such as good employee–employer relations or environmental stewardship), which do not involve contributions to other parties. Promotion to the public of such otherwise commendable activities should be prohibited, as their aim, effect or likely effect is to promote a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly. Public dissemination of such information should be prohibited, except for the purposes of required corporate reporting (such as annual reports) or necessary business administration (e.g. for recruitment purposes and communications with suppliers).

The Parties should ban contributions from tobacco companies to any other entity for “socially responsible causes”, as this is a form of sponsorship. Publicity given to “socially responsible” business practices of the tobacco industry should be banned, as it constitutes advertising and promotion.

Implementation of a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship need not interfere with legitimate types of expression, such as journalistic, artistic or academic expression or legitimate social or political commentary. Parties should, however, take measures to prevent the use of journalistic, artistic or academic expression or social or political commentary for the promotion of tobacco use or tobacco products.

The depiction of tobacco in entertainment media products, such as films, theatre and games, can strongly influence tobacco use, particularly among young people. Therefore, Parties should take the following measures:

• Implement a mechanism requiring that when an entertainment media product depicts tobacco products, use or imagery of any type, the responsible executives at each company involved in the production, distribution or presentation of that entertainment media product certify that no money, gifts, free publicity, interest-free loans, tobacco products, public relations assistance or anything else of any value has been given in exchange for the depiction.

• Prohibit the depiction of identifiable tobacco brands or tobacco brand images in association with, or as part of the content of, any entertainment media product.

• Require the display of prescribed anti-tobacco advertisements at the beginning of any entertainment media product that depicts tobacco products, use or images.

• Implement a ratings or classification system that takes into account the depiction of tobacco products, use or images in rating or classifying entertainment media products (for example, requiring adult ratings which restrict access of minors) and that ensures that entertainment media aimed at children (including cartoons) do not depict tobacco products, use or imagery.

Parties should take particular measures concerning the depiction of tobacco in entertainment media products, including requiring certification that no benefits have been received for any tobacco depictions, prohibiting the use of identifiable tobacco brands or imagery, requiring anti-tobacco advertisements and implementing a ratings or classification system that takes tobacco depictions into account.

Any exception to a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship to allow communication within the tobacco trade should be defined and applied strictly.

Parties should meet the requirements of Article 13.4 of the Convention regarding any form of tobacco advertising, promotion or sponsorship that is not prohibited. Parties should prohibit all promotion of a tobacco product by any means that are false, misleading, deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression; mandate health or other appropriate warnings or messages; and require regular disclosure by the tobacco industry to authorities of any advertising, promotion and sponsorship in which it engages. Parties should make the disclosed information readily available to the public.

Parties with a comprehensive ban or restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship should ensure that any cross-border tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship originating from their territory is banned or restricted in the same manner.

In the spirit of Article 12 of the Convention, Parties should promote and strengthen public awareness of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in all sectors of society, using all available communication tools. Parties should, inter alia, adopt appropriate measures to promote broad access to effective, comprehensive public education and awareness programmes that underline the importance of a comprehensive ban, educate the public concerning its necessity and explain why advertising, promotion and sponsorship by the tobacco industry is unacceptable.

Engaging the support of the community to monitor compliance and report violations of laws against tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is an essential element of enforcement. In order for members of the community to perform this role, they must be made aware of the problem and understand the law and the ways in which they can act on breaches.

Parties should implement public education and awareness programmes, inform members of the community about existing laws on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, the steps that can be taken to inform the relevant government agency of any advertising, promotion or sponsorship, and the steps that can be taken against a person who has engaged in tobacco advertising, promotion or sponsorship in breach of the law.

Parties should promote and strengthen, in all sectors of society, public awareness of the need to eliminate tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, the laws against it, and the ways in which members of the public can act on breaches of these laws.

Sri Lanka implemented the Article 13 of the FCTC in December 2006. However there are many lapses in the part of the enforcement not adhering to the guidelines of Article 13 and taking action on violations of the regulation by the tobacco industry, etc.

Although according to the guidelines of the FCTC, there should be a complete ban in all media platforms, including Internet, mobile telephones and other new technologies as well as films, portrayal of smoking scenes through tele dramas and films on television takes place. Even in 2012 there was a film produced and shown portraying smoking by the lead character for which no action was taken amidst huge public protests. Such promotions are “Product placements” for which no action has been taken to prohibit them or fine on such violations.

There had been occasions where stage dramas were played where the lead female character portrayed smoking scenes. In addition to violation of Article 13 of the FCTC it violated Article 8 of the FCTC by smoking in an “enclosed public area”.

The industry is freely engaged in their promotions and offering sponsorships and launching activities to display their so-called “corporate social responsibility”. We do not see any remedial action being taken in that regard.

The industry is also engaged in luring youth to initiate smoking by employing young female characters at lead public places. Who is concerned or worried over these promotions or taking action?

Although the guidelines indicate that there should be a prohibition on display of their products at “sales points”, it is continuously happening at leading super markets. Who is concerned or taking action in this regard?

It is hard to believe or accept that there is a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in the country. Initiations by the authorities to educate the general public, especially who are directly responsible for violating these regulations as well as law enforcing agents through media and programs is vital.

It is evident that there is a misconception among certain officials that the contribution and attempts being made by mass media to reduce tobacco consumption through awareness raising among the general public and lobbying policy makers have “no any positive effect” and that querying “who is reading newspapers?” It is up to you – the wise readers, to think twice whether there is any sense in such misconceptions and statements!

Media is to give something useful and valuable to wise people and not the ignorant.

- Asian Tribune -

Media is to give something useful and valuable to the wise people, and not the ignorant, on this World No Tobacco Day – May 31st
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