Freedom of speech is held so dear in western democracies that the State must demonstrate that any curbs on this fundamental freedom further a legitimate State interest.State interference with rights of advertisers of tobacco (or other) productsMoreFreedom of speech is held so dear in western democracies that the State must demonstrate that any curbs on this fundamental freedom further a legitimate State interest.State interference with rights of advertisers of tobacco (or other) products should be backed by clear and compelling evidence that the limitation on a fundamental freedom is minimal, and will achieve the goal espoused.
The belief that advertising of tobacco products increases the total volume of tobacco consumed is fairly new. Prior to the late 1980s, few would have argued that tobacco advertising increases total tobacco consumption. Tobacco is a mature product. Vendors of mature products engage in advertising largely to lure consumers away from rivals, rather than attract new consumers into the market. Tobacco consumption is big business. The benefits to tobacco companies of successfully luring consumers away from rivals are exceptionally large, which explains their huge advertising budgets.
Most cross-sectional studies of the tobacco-advertising relationship which purport to find a positive relationship are fatally flawed. Studies using better data and/or more sophisticated econometric techniques typically find little or no relationship between tobacco advertising and total tobacco consumption. Country-by-country studies that purport to find an advertising/total consumption relationship typically suffer from similar fatal errors and do not provide evidence that advertising restrictions will curb tobacco consumption.
The suggestion that young people are induced to begin smoking as a result of advertising, particularly of popular cartoon characters is unsupported. The over-whelming body of evidence suggests that the principal causes of youth smoking are parental influence and the influence of peers. Young people are often aware of tobacco advertising but this awareness need not translate into smoking initiation. The European Union Advertising ban directive is an attempt to usurp the right to regulate public health issues which, under the Treaties of Rome and Maastricht, is clearly reserved to the member nations of the European Union.
Professor High examines whether there is clear and compelling evidence to justify curbs on the freedom to advertise tobacco products. He finds no such evidence: tobacco advertising induces consumers to switch brands but it does not appear to increase total consumption. The EUs advertising ban directive usurps the rights of individual states to regulate public health issues.