The mass production of cigarettes, in the form we know them nowadays, started not too long time ago. The born of cigarettes, rolled in paper which took the place of the tobacco smoked in pipes or chewed, happened in the late 1800 where an American young guy started to manufacture cigarettes covering the 40% of the American market of that time. That was not enough. Smoking still was connected to bad habits and was a field reserved only to male people (the only women who used to smoke at that time were the prostitutes). In order to change the rules of this concept James Buchanan Duke decided to invest in the 1889 the amount of 800.000USD (currently estimated around 25 million of USD) in marketing of cigarettes. This person changed the rules. He brought cigarettes in everyone’s home. Advertisements of cigarettes were made in every possible way. Trough radio, television, sport events and magazines and so on. How was that possible? How was possible that even programs for kids in the middle 1900 were sponsoring the usage of tobacco?
At that time science and medical search didn’t find out the connection among the use of tobacco and all the related diseases. Their negative impact on health was unknown. Once it was found out, the tobacco advertisements became one of the most highly regulated forms of marketing. Nowadays some or all forms of tobacco advertising are banned in many countries.
Italy was one of the first countries to adopt measures against the usage of tobacco. In the 1962 Italy removed all the advertisements from television and radio communication but to remove all the ads also from magazines we have to wait till late 70’s.
In the 1970 the President of United States Nixon signed into law the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banning the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio. Nevertheless Smokeless tobacco ads, remained possible until a ban took effect on 1986.
In Australia in 1972 the federal government introduced mandatory health warnings for radio and television cigarette advertisements. In September 1976 a total ban on tobacco and cigarette advertisements on TV & radio commenced. In December 1989 tobacco advertising was banned from all locally produced print media. In 1992 the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act expressly prohibited almost all forms of tobacco advertising in Australia, including the sponsorship of sporting or other cultural events by cigarette brands.
In Europe all tobacco advertising and sponsorship on television has been banned within the European Union since 1991 under the Television Without Frontiers Directive of 1989. This ban was extended by the Tobacco Advertising Directive, which took effect in July 2005 to cover other forms of media such as the internet, print media, radio, and sports events like Formula 1 car races.
We have to wait till very late to see some measures to prevent or reduce the use of tobacco in China. Considering that a recent research made by WHO (World Health Organization) demonstrated that there are more than 300 million smokers in China, nearly one-third of the world's total. About one in every 3 cigarettes smoked in the world is smoked in China. Nearly 2.3 trillion cigarettes were consumed in China in 2009 – more than in the other top-4 tobacco-consuming countries (Indonesia, Japan, the Russian Federation and the United States of America) combined, this market has a primary importance.
Finally on September 1st 2016, the General Administration for Industry and Commerce announced that cigarette brands in China have entered a no-advertising era. The measures adopted by the General Administration for Industry and Commerce have the target to ban any advertisement of prescription drugs or tobacco through internet.
Already in the Article 22 of the amended advertising law of 2015 was provided that “Any release of tobacco advertisements through media of mass communication or at public places, means of public transportation, or outdoor places shall be prohibited”, but the words media of mass communication was considered not specific enough creating space for the tobacco industries to develop their marketing advertisements. In 2013 indeed, there were few Chinese tobacco industries on the WeChat Web with official accounts. By the following years the numbers increased rapidly and in the 2016 there were 17 Chinese tobacco manufacturers with official accounts on WeChat. Being WeChat the most common and used App in China the Tobacco industry got a very important boost to the sale of tobacco.
However, according to the article 3 of the new measures a better and clearer explanation of advertising on the internet was given. The provision includes How advertisements are released, the Forms of such advertisements and last the Purposes of these advertisements. The definition as disposed by Article 3 clearly defines and covers all existing media and new forms of communication (even not emerged yet!!). Rebus sic stantibus (being the facts like this) any tobacco advertising, made by any websites, web pages or APPs, conducted by physical person or companies, shall be prohibited. The punishments were extended not only to the owner of the advertisement but also to the internet service provider. According to Article 57 of the advertising law and article 2 of the measures, who will be found advertising tobacco in violation of the law may be sentenced to a fine up to a million CNY and seen its business licenses and permits revoked.
After the promulgation of the measures, many tobacco industries made significant modification of the content of their WeChat accounts. Many online links of tobacco brands were totally deleted and many tobacco manufacturers even suspended the operation of their own websites.