Tobacco Advertising is Illegal, but Advertising for Alcohol is not, Is This Hypocritical?
November 11, 2012
Advertisements are a vital part of any company’s marketing strategy, and are used to inform or persuade an audience about a certain product or service. In fact, North American companies are among the world’s highest advertisers (Boone et al., 2010, 502). Today, an average consumer is exposed to hundreds of advertisements every day. It is when these companies attempt to promote a dangerous product that restrictions must be, and have been put in place. For several years, Canada’s regulations on tobacco advertisements have become stricter, while alcohol advertisements are still permitted across multiple mediums. This leads one to question the difference between the two substances, and if this notion is in fact hypocritical. The stakeholders identified in this paper are the viewers and listeners of the advertisements, specifically the youth audience. The principles involved with alcohol promotion are examined with a lens that incorporates the views of Horkheimer and Adorno’s perspective on advertising. Along with a brief history of tobacco advertising regulations, this paper will discuss the ethical issues involved in alcohol advertising, and evidence to support that alcoholic products are no less of a danger than tobacco, and should have the same advertising restrictions. There is also evidence to suggest that the majority of Canadians are in favour of tighter restrictions on alcohol advertising. The current hypocritical state of allowing alcohol to be advertised, but removing all tobacco related marketing is further discussed in detail.
Not only is advertising illegal for tobacco companies, retailers are now obligated to remove these products from sight. Cigarette companies are also no longer permitted to label their product as light or mild on the package (Pollay, 2004, 80). The first Canadian legislation successfully passed in favour of advertising regulations was the Tobacco Act of 1997 (Pollay, 2004, 80). Health Canada created provisions in this act such as, tobacco products must not be promoted, and all manufacturers must share information about the product’s emissions and health hazards arising from use of the product on the packaging (Health Canada, 2011). The intent of this act was to protect young people and others from being encouraged to try tobacco related products without being informed of the dangers to their health (Polley, 2004, 81). The belief was that tobacco ads were aimed at new smokers, and that companies were trying to attract young people towards their brand. This idea is plausible because in order to maintain a strong business over a long period of time, new users must be targeted. Further, there is evidence supporting the fact that current smokers are not likely to be converted to another brand, making youth targeted advertisements more likely (Polley, 2004, 83). There was pressure to strengthen the advertising restrictions after countless health risks and deaths were attributed to smoking. “Smoking has been estimated to result in roughly 45,000 deaths annually and is a major cause of respiratory disease, cancer and circulatory disease” (Sen, 2009, 189). A study conducted by the American Journal of Public Health looked at 481 randomly selected tobacco retailers after the product display ban to understand the changes that resulted in tobacco promotion (Cohen et al., 2011, 1879). Their study revealed that this ban successfully limited the exposure of tobacco products, and demonstrated the importance of a complete ban on retail tobacco displays (Cohen et al., 2011, 1880). Clearly, limiting advertising exposure to hazardous products such as cigarettes truly limits consumer exposure, and thus promotes the idea of a healthy public. Since these ad regulations have proved to be a success,...