Cigarette Ad Law One of the World's Toughest

The Health Ministry plans to propose a law that would entail nearly a complete ban on the advertising of cigarettes.

David Lev ,

Cigarette smoke is lethal to the human body
Cigarette smoke is lethal to the human body
Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons / Tomasz

Cigarette advertising – in nearly any form or media – will be completely banned, if the Health Ministry has its way. The Ministry on Wednesday published a “memorandum of law” (tazkir chok) – a document distributed to the public by a government office in advance of a formal law proposal – which would “generally prohibit the advertisement of tobacco products to reduce public exposure to advertising for those products that cause death, disease and disability.”

The law is necessary, the memorandum says, “to protect children and young people the effects of advertising, which produces a positive and attractive image of smoking.”

Direct advertising of cigarette products in electronic media has long been banned in Israel, as it is in much of the western world. The new law, however, would take that ban and extend it to far beyond a ban on TV and radio ads – or even newspaper ads, which would also be banned.

Cigarette manufacturers will be banned from sponsoring festivals, public parties, or other events; ads will be permitted on the internet or via e-mail, but only to recipients who signed up to receive such messages, or on sites that are associated with smokers.

Ads can also appear inside stores that only sell cigarettes and smoking accessories (ie, “smoke shops” and not grocery stores); the ads may not be visible outside the store. Signs in other stores, such as groceries and supermarkets, can list only the name of the product and the price, and cannot exceed 30 square centimeters.

The law's purpose, states the memorandum, is to restrict cigarette advertising only to specific groups that are already interested in smoking or are smokers and express a positive desire to see such ads.

Changes will also be made to cigarette packaging so that not only text warnings, but graphical protrayals of the dangers of smoking will be added. In addition, cigarette makers will be required to tell the Ministry exactly what it is in their products, and the ingredient list – except for ingredients the Ministry deems to be “secret” - will be published.

Fines – of between NIS 75,000 and NIS 452,000, per violation – will be imposed on individuals and companies that break the law.

The Ministry said that it expects that cigarette manufacturers – and possibly newspapers and supermarket chains – will oppose the law, but that there could be no opposition to the law on legal grounds.

“Despite the fact that the law would seem to limit the freedom of companies to do business by limiting their right to advertise, the Ministry feels that the ban on ads is balanced, compared to the social and health damage caused by cigarettes. To prevent damage to the cigarette companies' rights, we have not sought an outright ban on ads altogether, and offer several limited advertising channels in order to reach smokers who are interested in seeing such ads,” the memorandum said.