UN Moves to Ban Cigarette Advertising

UN Moves to Ban Cigarette Advertising

The World Health Organization (WHO), an arm of the United Nations (UN), is calling for a global, comprehensive ban on all tobacco product promotion, according to a Chinese news report.

If instituted, the ban could prevent movies and TV shows from featuring particular brands of cigarettes pursuant to agreements with the makers of those cigarette brands. Such a “product placement” ban would be in addition to bans on advertising and sponsorship activities.

WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Shin Young-soo on Thursday cited the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as legally obligating sovereign nations to “comprehensively ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.” 

The WHO push to force sovereign UN member-states to institute the UN subsidiary’s preferred policy appears to be timed to coincide with World No Tobacco Day – May 31.

It also comes as a second country, Ireland, is considering banning the sale of cigarettes in branded packages, something that critics charge undermines free speech and intellectual property rights, and could facilitate smuggling of tobacco products. 

Australia first mandated plain packaging of cigarettes last year. Australia is currently being challenged in a World Trade Organization proceeding by Ukraine, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and even Cuba over that law. The four countries allege that plain packaging laws breach free trade rules relevant to intellectual property rights.