Article 13 of the Tobacco Convention requests countries to impose a total ban on advertising, marketing, and sponsorship. In Sweden, the general rule is that tobacco advertising is forbidden. However, limited marketing in stores, such as information that they sell tobacco products, is allowed. Despite this, young people are exposed to tobacco advertising both in stores and on social media. As a politician, you can contribute to bringing about a change for the better.
Article 13 is founded on evidence-based practice that a total ban on marketing and sponsorship will reduce tobacco use. The Parties (countries that have signed the treaty that is the basis of the Tobacco Convention) are urged to impose a total ban. If this is not possible, because of the country’s constitution, as strong restrictions as possible should be implemented.
In the 1990s, long before Sweden had ratified the Tobacco Convention, advertising of tobacco products was banned. However, limited marketing is still allowed. It must be neutral and not intrusive or encourage to tobacco use. The justification for this exception to the law is that it enables tobacco consumers to make informed choices.
Visible tobacco products in stores is counted as advertising according to the Guidelines of the Tobacco Convention. In Finland, Norway, and Iceland, such exposure is prohibited. Iceland was the first in the world to, as early as 2001, introduce a ban on display of tobacco products. Experience from countries that have imposed exposure bans shows that this is an effective measure not only to help prevent tobacco use initiation among children, adolescents, and adults, but also to help people wanting to quit use of tobacco products.
There is strong support among the Swedish public for forbidding tobacco companies to using stores to market tobacco products. In the spring of 2020, Kantar Sifo, a Swedish market research company, conducted an opinion poll on behalf of Tobaksfakta. The reason was that tobacco companies were aggressively using retail outlets to market cigarettes. According to the polling result, 72 percent of the respondents was in favor of forbidding promotion of tobacco products in stores.
In the latest review of the Tobacco Act, it was proposed that exposure bans should be introduced in Sweden. However, this proposal was not included in the government bill and, therefore, not in the revised Tobacco Act.
Another topic raised in Article 13 of the Tobacco Convention is neutral tobacco packaging. It has been introduced in Norway and 20 other countries have introduced or intend to introduce it. In Sweden, it has been discussed for many years. Last year, the matter was raised in an official report called Ett ändamålsenligt skydd för tryck- och yttrandefriheten (An effective protection of freedom of the press and speech). The investigation was carried out by a parliamentary committee. One of their tasks was to decide on whether branded packaging of nicotine products could be excepted from the Freedom of the Press Act’s stipulations. The Committee concluded that this was not possible because it could come into conflict with freedom of establishment and of disseminating information of public interest. The Committee submitted, however, a proposal on how a constitutional provision could be formulated to allow for regulation of tobacco packaging in common law However, the Committee did not consider whether such a provision should be introduced.
The think tank Tobaksfakta has for many years argued for neutral packaging and is of the opinion that it can be implemented within the scope of the Freedom of the Press Act. Furthermore, they write that the harmful effects of tobacco use are so great that society must go all out for protecting children and young people from the tobacco industry’s use of tobacco packaging as a form of advertising.