COP7 strengthens ban on cross-border tobacco advertising

27 November 2016:

Recently, COP7 decided to scale up the implementation of WHO FCTC Article 13 and its Guidelines to achieve comprehensive coverage on both cross–border advertising and TAPS in entertainment media. This decision is important in addressing tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship (TAPS) from non-party countries that reaches countries that are Parties.

Several countries in the ASEAN region, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Singapore, have instituted a ban on cross –border tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship. Other countries have some form of restrictions in place. Thailand for example has banned cross-border TAPs originating locally but not those entering the country. Countries may face challenges in implementation if tobacco sponsorship is still allowed in international sporting events as seen in the case of Indonesia.

Indonesia is infamous for tobacco sponsorship of its popular sports, especially badminton, soccer, and futsal. Tobacco companies have found ways to sponsor these events through their charity foundations or affiliate entities. Tobacco sponsored sports and the broadcast of international tournaments are then beamed to neighbouring countries.

After several years of advocacy the Badminton World Federation announced that from January 2014 Indonesia will not allow tobacco sponsorship of its badminton tournaments. However, Indonesian tobacco company, PT Djarum, continues to sponsor badminton through its affiliate online store, for the period 2014 to 2017.

International football body, FIFA, has a tobacco free policy. The annual EURO Cup football tournament is tobacco free, however the telecast of those games to the Indonesian public is sponsored by PT Djarum, which uses the occasion to launch new Djarum cigarette packs.

Bans on cross-border tobacco advertising are important, and countries with partial bans need to strengthen their legislation. ASEAN countries need to cooperate regionally to facilitate the elimination of cross-border tobacco advertising promotion and sponsorship.

Smoking in movies continues to be a problem. According to US researchers, major media companies and the Hollywood studios they own have known at least since 2002 that smoking in movies causes children to smoke. The Center for Disease Control reports that R-ratings on movies with smoking can prevent a million future tobacco deaths among American children. Indian movies carry health warning on smoking scenes, while images of smoking in Thai movies are pixelated.

For status of implementation of Article 13 Guidelines, including cross-border advertising, in the ASEAN region see: