Tobacco control seeks to stop tobacco product marketing, turning the message back to the death and disease caused by these products. Blocking marketing in all media— including airwaves, store counters, packaging, and on the products themselves— will contribute to this goal.

Once a product rolls off the manufacturing line, it needs help to get to consumers. Tobacco companies must build the demand for products, particularly from new consumers. Marketing creates consumer demand, essentially inventing the reasons why a person would want to smoke a cigarette or use other tobacco products. Controlling the ability of the tobacco industry to spread favorable ideas about tobacco use is the essence of tobacco control efforts to regulate marketing. Closing off marketing channels to everyone has the primary benefit of shielding children from persuasive efforts that influence them to start smoking. While the tobacco industry always claims that their advertisements are not intended to appeal to children, they walk a fine line by aiming their marketing efforts to young adults, a group who children see as their closest peers and role models. Sometimes, such as by marketing tobacco like candy, tobacco companies cross this line.

The tobacco industry has found creative ways to market its products, including through attractive packaging and so-called “corporate social responsibility” campaigns wherein they seek to present themselves as positive contributors to society. Regulating these myriad marketing strategies is a central tobacco control strategy. Essentially, wherever the tobacco industry tries to change the message about what their products represent away from disease and death, tobacco control attempts to change the conversation firmly back to the essential facts of tobacco use: disease and death.

Tobacco companies typically respond to marketing restrictions by reallocating resources to the remaining open channels. For example, when the government prohibits magazine and billboard advertising, the industry simply moves to other strategies, such as direct mail, internet, point of sale, package branding and discounting. When regulation successfully eliminates all channels, the tobacco market will freeze up and dwindle over time. But we know that until every single channel for marketing is closed off, tobacco companies will try to spend their way around the problem because there is money to be made doing so. Thus, tobacco control must work relentlessly toward closing off every avenue available to tobacco companies to promote their destructive products. Such innovative anti-marketing efforts include requiring plain, standardized packaging of their products, and eventually plain, standardized products.

Bad Practice

Allowing for e-cigarettes ads that surreptitiously promote smoking in channels that are closed off to tobacco products. Philip Morris manufactures MarkTen e-cigarettes, which look nearly identical to cigarettes here as “smoke” floats off the end of the e-cigarette. Companies can claim they are only advertising e-cigarettes where cigarette ads have been banned, even though the products are indistinguishable to the viewer.


Photo Credit: MarkTen E-cigarette Ad From the collection of Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising (

Stanford University Research Into Tobacco Advertising, 2014.

Good Practice

This mockup of a bilingual point of sale advertising ban envisions what this policy would look like if adopted in Hong Kong. As of 2016, 15% of the world’s population, living in 37 countries, were covered by the WHO FCTC’s best-practice policy of banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Of the world population, 47% (in 78 countries) were covered by a tobacco health warning label that met best practices.


Photo Credit: Marketing Ban at Point of Sale courtesy of the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health.

GTCR 2017 and BBC News

Cutting Edge Practice

When tobacco companies responded to Australia’s plain packaging law by adding distinctive markings to cigarettes, they were reprimanded as being “not strictly compliant” with current legislation. As a potentially important improvement on plain packaging legislation, Canada has considered standardizing the entire cigarette, going to a plain product, requiring wrapping the cigarette in an unpleasant color of paper.


Photo Credit: Plain, Standardized Packaging the goatman / Image used with modification under license from

ABC News, 2012

Advertising Bans

Total Number of Bans on Direct and Indirect Tobacco Advertising, 2018


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Canada H, Canada H. Consultation summary: “Plain and standardized packaging” for tobacco products [Internet]. aem. 2017 [cited 2017 Aug 9]. Available from:

Landman A, Ling PM, Glantz SA. Tobacco industry youth smoking prevention programs: protecting the industry and hurting tobacco control. Am J Public Health. 2002 Jun;92(6):917–30.

Philip Morris USA. Could Your Kid Be Smoking? [Internet]. Elmira City Schools. 2005. Available from: