To say that tobacco advertising stimulates tobacco sales may seem a simple and moderate statement. In reality, tobacco control activists often meet serious opposition in defending this fact. Achieving the restriction or banning of tobacco advertising is one of the fiercest battles to face. Tobacco lobbyists usually assert that advertising does not increase the overall quantity of tobacco sold. Rather, the tobacco industry maintains that advertising merely enhances the market share of a particular brand, without recruiting new smokers.
These arguments are not always easy to counter. This Factsheet gives health advocates the arguments and research data needed to face well-prepared tobacco lobbyists in public debate. The data cited are all presented in reputable scientific journals or congresses. They demonstrate that tobacco advertising entices young people to begin smoking and that restricting or banning advertising has a measurable effect on smoking behaviour.
Research on tobacco advertising and consumption
It is not possible to conduct a randomised controlled trial to study the effect of an advertising ban. Such a trial would require long-term exposure of one group of people to cigarette advertising, while ensuring that a control group would be completely unexposed. This is neither feasible nor ethical.
Scientists funded by the tobacco industry have argued that in the absence of data from such a trial, it can never be proven that banning tobacco advertising will reduce tobacco consumption. However, most researchers agree that reliable conclusions can be drawn from other types of studies. Three main types of studies have examined the relationship between tobacco advertising and consumption:
1. econometric research on the link between expenditure on advertising and tobacco consumption
2. research comparing tobacco consumption within a country before and after an ad ban
3. international comparison of trends in tobacco consumption and anti-tobacco measures
Numerous studies have investigated the relationship between expenditure on tobacco advertising and consumption of tobacco (). Adjustment must be made for important factors such as product price, available income, etc., to avoid drawing wrong conclusions. As econometric studies look at total expenditure and total consumption, no specific conclusions regarding effects on young people can be drawn.
Most econometric studies have found that increased expenditure on tobacco advertising increases demand for cigarettes, while banning advertising leads to a reduction in tobacco consumption.
A recent meta-analysis of 48 econometric studies found that tobacco advertising significantly increased tobacco sales (). Recent reviews by the United States Institute of Medicine (), the United States Department of Health and Human Services () and the World Health Organisation () reached the same conclusion.
Research within a country before and after an ad...