comparison of tobacco advertising in UK, US and China (Assignment 3)– BY Yuanie Jin


Nowadays, in many countries, tobacco advertising is restricted in some way. Usually, this kind of restriction is always for reducing the sales of tobacco (since everyone know that tobacco is bad for human’s health and it can be easily affect others health). During the time we were in the United Kingdom, I found out there are some different ways to restrict tobacco commercial comparing to the way in United States and China.

In UK, advertising of tobacco was banned after the government implemented the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 (TAPA). It was a phase in move. First, it started with ban on print media and billboard tobacco advertising in February 2003. Then in the same year, they banned direct marketing in May and sponsorship of tobacco advertising in July. In December 2004, tobacco advertising on point of sale was restricted; they only allowed maximum size of A5 piece of paper for point of sale. For the tobacco advertising in broadcast media, it has already been prohibited by the Broadcasting Act of 1990 (Television) and 1996 (radio). After those acts, the cigarette pack become the most important tool in promoting tobacco sale, however, in 2009, government forced to put warning picture on the cigarette pack to remind public about tobacco’s harm. Obviously, tobacco business is highly restricted for any kinds of commercial activities in UK.


When I first got into a grocery store for a pack of cigarette, I found out the tobacco products were only available at the checkout counters. The interesting thing was that there was an opaque door in front of the tobacco products, and you only could saw those things only if you present your ID (or looks like 30). It was even impossible for a teenager to see the cigarette in the store. Therefore, I would like to say that UK put a lot effort on reduce tobacco consumer, especially for the children.

In US, the tobacco advertising and promotion control seems like less strict than the act in UK. In 1970, depending on the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, cigarette company were required to put health warning on the cigarette package, and they also were prohibited to advertise on Television or radio. In 1986, smokeless cigarette advertising on Television or radio was prohibited. In 1998, according to the Master Settlement Agreement, limited almost every kinds of advertising of cigarette, include outdoor, billboard, public transit advertising. Additionally, according to the MSA, tobacco advertising are not allowed to target on people who under 18 years old, not even in the cartoon. In 2009, the cigarette products were prohibited to advertise or label with the description contain “light”, “mild”, “low” or similar description without an FDA order. For my personal experience, I found out that in the US, when you want to buy a pack of cigarette in the grocery store, like in UK, you only could buy it on the checkout counter, but the difference is that all the cigarette products are exposed to the public, although you still need to present your ID for buying them. You also can find cigarette promotion posters on the window of the store, and there are some discount deals for the cigarette as well. On the cigarette pack, there is only a phrase of warning message (Like “smoking is bad for your health”). Inside of the pack, sometime I even could find a cigarette coupon. the restriction in US can be considered as responsible, especially responsible for children. However, comparing to the UK, it’s less strict and less sensitive, they still keep some considerable spaces for cigarette advertising.


In China, the acts of tobacco control are really on the early or middle stage. In 2003, the tobacco advertising is prohibited in China, and the interesting thing is that even the scenes of smoking in the movie are prohibited. And they also required putting warning message on the cigarette pack. However, the problem is that you can buy cigarette everywhere and mostly they don’t check your ID (everyone know it’s illegal, but they mostly don’t care, if you looks like around 18, they will sell you cigarette without asking). Additionally, there is a really low tobacco tax in China, comparing to UK or US. It’s only around 20 Yuan (which equals to 3.5 dollars in US), which means the major way to control under age smoking is from education, not from legal restriction. There are warning message on the pack, but no warning picture. Since the tobacco advertising is mostly prohibited and tobacco company still want to make a lot profit, they put more effort on packaging. The one thing I should say is that China have a really different tobacco culture, there were some many different level of cigarette, include luxury cigarette. So company used package to show the difference, like gold pack might be mean the best one. Now it was illegal to sell the cigarette in higher than 100 Yuan (equal to 16 US dollars). The truth is Chinese tobacco companies not usually do advertising, the retailers do. The retailer usually put a big board in front of the store to promote the message of today’s special deal or some new brand/flavor cigarette. As I said, on the problem of tobacco control, China is still on the early or middle stage. Began at June 1, 2015, government prohibited smoking in any indoor places in Beijing (only in Beijing, the other cities will follow this policy gradually), it was a good start, but still far away from what public expected. In my prospective, Although China kept pushing, they still showed lack responsibility with the tobacco control issues, especially on the potential threat of the message that are targeted on the under age.

Through the process of comparing tobacco advertising of these three countries, not only you can tell the different attitudes of tobacco products in those countries, but also reflect some parts of the culture. In UK, people are more serious about social issues and usually choose some aggressive and fast way to deal with it. In US, although everyone know the cigarette is bad for human’s health, they still allowed some ways of advertising in tobacco industry, it just like every American business, makes more effort on media campaign and promotion than any other countries. In China, tobacco and alcohol was a big part of social activity in old time, and still considered as a big part of their social activity in a lot people’s mind. Everyone knows the negative effect of tobacco, but they consider tobacco’s social value more than it’s harm. It’s always being serious when we talk about the advertising in alcohol or tobacco, because there is a trend around the world that people are trying to remove those “bad things” in their society, and build a better social culture depend on their value. Control tobacco advertising might be a great way, however, they are still a lot things we should consider before we act.


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