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Gaceta Sanitaria

Print version ISSN 0213-9111

Abstract

MARTIN, Marta; QUILES, M. del Carmen  and  LOPEZ, Carmen. Self-regulation systems to control tobacco advertising: An empirical analysis. Gac Sanit [online]. 2004, vol.18, n.5, pp. 366-373. ISSN 0213-9111.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0213-91112004000500005.

Objective: Against the background of the debate aroused by the tobacco advertising ban as a result of Directive 98/43/EC and of the Proposed Directive of 5/9/2001, we aimed to evaluate how self-regulation of tobacco advertising systems has worked in the last 5 years and to evaluate its effectiveness and relevance as a potential tool in public health prevention. Methods: We performed a content and discourse analysis of all advertisements appearing in the Sunday supplements of the three weekly newspapers with the widest circulation in Spain (El País, El Mundo, and ABC) between January 1995 and January 2000 to detect infractions of the norms of the self-regulation code of the Spanish Tobacco Association (Asociación Española de Tabaco [AET]) regarding: a) the identity of models used in advertising; b) direct or indirect claims for the therapeutic properties of smoking; c) depiction of cigarettes in advertisements, and d) printed warnings on advertisements. Results: We examined 910 banners and 369 advertisements. Very few advertisements displayed rational arguments on elements such as price (13%) or product components (7%). Although the AET's code was generally respected, the advertisements displayed a series of subtleties that allowed the industry to get around the code: 10 of the 369 advertisements reviewed depicted famous people (mainly pilots and artists) and one third of them used iconic personages (Joe Camel or Marlboro Man); one advertisement suggested the therapeutic properties of tobacco and almost all linked smoking with social success and leisure. Although cigarettes were not depicted, 18% of the advertisements showed substitutes for cigarettes in various places (12%) and a large percentage infringed the code's recommendations on printed warnings. Conclusions: The industry's use of creative subtleties infringing its self-imposed norms begs the question of how far self-regulation is viable when a failure in the system can have serious consequences for public health.

Keywords : Advertising; Smoking; Self-regulation; Legislation.

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