Philippines - 2003 ban on advertising and skirting the ban..

July 12, 2009 - In May of 2009 we reported that despite the passage of the Tobacco Control Act in 2003, more Filipino youths are now smoking, “indicating that the law has not been effective.” (Philippines may be losing the war against smoking..)

A two part series has been published by Newsbreak and authored by Carmela Fonbuena that looks at effects of the tobacco ad ban and how cigarette companies skirt the advertising ban.

The Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 stopped the elaborate marketing strategy of tobacco companies in the “paid media. As a result of the Act: no tobacco ads on TV, cable TV, and radio since January 1, 2007; no tobacco ads outdoors and in cinemas beginning July 1, 2007; no tobacco ads in all mass media beginning July 1, 2008;
no tobacco ads outdoors and in cinemas beginning July 1, 2007; no tobacco ads in all mass media beginning July 1, 2008; no tobacco sponsorship of all sports, concert, cultural, and art events beginning July 1, 2008

The impact of the advertising ban has not made considerable impact on the sales of cigarettes. Anti-tobacco advocates believed that if you cut the exposure of consumers to these tobacco ads would decline. According to records at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the country’s biggest tobacco player—Lucio Tan’s Fortune Tobacco Corporation—posted a decline in sales in the first year of tobacco ad ban. But a global youth tobacco survey showed that smoking prevalence among Filipino youth had jumped from 15 percent in 2003 to 21.6 percent in 2007.

Skirting the tobacco ban.. Prohibited from advertising their products in the so-called “paid media”—television, radio, and newspapers—tobacco companies have found ways to defeat the ban through subtle but potentially more effective promotional activities.

Their activities range from donating to community projects to influencing the content of movies or shows to being the subject of positive news reports. Some examples: For decades, tobacco companies have paid hefty sums to promote their products in the movies. Hollywood has played a big role in portraying cigarette smoking as glamorous. Tobacco companies have also maintained their presence in newspapers, particularly through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. Amongst among tobacco companies, Philip Morris (Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc.) appears to be the most generous. It is known for its donations to local government units, charities, and government agencies, most, if not all, of which are reported in newspapers. The most common and frequent violation of the ban is through outdoor advertising, like billboard or sari-sari store signboards. (Sari-sari store is the term used in the Philippines for a small convenience store, from the word sari-sari meaning “a variety.”) Concert sponsorships,e.g., Philip Morris tried in 2008 to sponsor the reunion concert of popular '90s band Eraserheads, but strong and sustained protests against the activity forced Phillip Morris to bow down and back out. It was a skillfully prepared activity. Philip Morris did not immediately reveal that they were organizing the concert for its Marlboro brand. While the sponsor remained a mystery, searches in the Internet led fans to a certain site—the web site of Marlboro. (Philip Morris won't postpone Philippines Eraserheads Concert..; STOP PMI Sponsoring Concert in Philippines..)

Lawyer Josefina Buenaseda of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) said they have learned of various other instances when tobacco companies sponsored events such as fiestas. Sometimes, these activities entail illegal promotional activities, such as using parasols bearing the tobacco brand, putting up billboards, and distributing prohibited give-away merchandise.

EXTRA - Filipino smokers have a strong preference for menthol-flavored cigarettes more than half of the smokers prefer them.

References: 1st of 2-parts: Effects of tobacco ad ban not yet felt by Carmela Fonbuena, Newsbreak, Abs-Cbn News, 7/7/2009; Cigarette companies skirt advertising ban by Carmela Fonbuena, Newsbreak, Abs-Cbn News, 7/8/2009.