Since the 1980s Australia has been a pioneer in the control of tobacco advertising and promotion and today almost all forms of tobacco advertising are prohibited.
Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires Parties to undertake a comprehensive ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
The 2008 National Cancer Institute's Monograph 19, The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use, summarises the primary arguments in support of comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, which include:
the devastating health consequences of tobacco use
the deceptive and misleading nature of tobacco marketing campaigns
the unavoidable exposure of youth to these campaigns
the failure of the tobacco industry to effectively self-regulate
the ineffectiveness of implementing only partial advertising bans.
Decades of research indicates that advertising influences the uptake of smoking by young people and more recent evidence demonstrates that advertising bans are effective in reducing both prevalence and initiation of smoking.
For further information, see Tobacco in Australia: Facts & Issues:
Commonwealth laws on tobacco advertising & promotion
Almost all forms of tobacco advertising and promotion are prohibited under the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 (Cth) (TAP Act). This includes advertising in print, on TV, radio and (in more limited circumstances) online. The bans extend not only to advertisements for specific tobacco products, but also more broadly to any writing, still or moving picture, sign, symbol or other visual image, or any audible message…that gives publicity to, or otherwise promotes smoking, tobacco related trade-marks, designs and names, as well as any words or designs that are closely associated with a tobacco product. Exceptions include tobacco-related material that is an “accidental or incidental accompaniment” to other material.
For further information about the requirements in the TAP Act, see the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care’s Tobacco Advertising webpage.
Victorian laws on tobacco advertising & promotion
The Tobacco Act 1987 (Vic) regulates additional areas where there is potential for tobacco to be advertised, including:
displays in theatres, sale of films containing tobacco advertisements and distribution of leaflets;
buzz marketing (e.g. use of colours and images consistent with a tobacco brand);
non-branded tobacco advertising;
point of sale displays of tobacco products at retail outlets;
competitions, rewards and loyalty schemes;
The restrictions on advertising contained in the Tobacco Act 1987 also apply to e-cigarettes.
For further information regarding Victorian laws on tobacco advertising and promotion, see the Victorian Department of Health’s website for tobacco retailers.
If you believe someone is in breach of a tobacco advertising law, we encourage you to contact the relevant government department. There are a number of avenues for lodging complaints to government about potential tobacco advertising. These are as follows:
Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care: for complaints about potential tobacco advertisements in any context (e.g. television, radio, print or online)
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA): for the broadcasting of tobacco advertisements on television or radio
Tobacco Control Section of the Victorian Department of Health: for complaints about any of the matters that come under Victorian laws on tobacco control (listed above – e.g. point of sale, buzz marketing, etc.).