The importance of removing all forms of tobacco advertising is well known, but how achievable is the goal? Issues such as tobacco companies exploiting loopholes in the law, advertising at point of sale, and using new, more personal approaches. In order to stay ahead of the industry tobacco control advocates must share experiences and lessons learned.
In our experience in Bangladesh, several steps are necessary in removing tobacco ads. The first is to ensure that the law is clear and comprehensive, addressing all forms of advertising and including clear, practical guidelines for enforcement. If the original law did not get it right, experience can be used to strengthen it through amendments.
An innovative form of enforcement in Bangladesh is the use of “mobile courts”, which take the law to the offender, remove ads and fine the offender on the spot.
Law enforcement is made far more easy and practical, especially in resource-poor settings, when civil society plays a role in monitoring and enforcement. NGOs and others can identify illegal advertising, report to the authorities, and follow up on whether they have been removed. Media can bring attention to lapses in enforcement and maintain pressure on government to enforce the law – and to strengthen it if it is still too weak to outlaw all forms of advertising.
Responding to new forms of ads will require vigilance, creativity, and international lessons sharing. New forms are likely to be similar worldwide and much can be gained by sharing experiences in countering them.