The regulatory framework for on-line tobacco advertising

This EPHA briefing looks at the regulatory framework for on-line tobacco advertising, considering the following elements:

  • The international obligations and political commitments.
  • The rules in the WHO Regions.
  • The European regulatory framework.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) addresses the subject of on-line tobacco advertising. Article 13 of the WHO FCTC lays down the obligations of the parties to ban or restrict tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Advertising on the Internet in the WHO region: a few statistics

  • Tobacco advertising and promotion on the Internet is banned in 34 WHO European countries (representing about 64% of the WHO European countries).
  • Only two WHO European countries (representing about 4% of all WHO European countries) that have not banned tobacco advertising on Internet have adopted restrictions for this type of advertising.
  • Tobacco advertising and promotion via the Internet remains permissable in 14 WHO European countries (representing about 26% of all WHO European countries). [1]

At a European level, the Tobacco advertising Directive (Directive 2003/33/EC) lays down the standards for the on-line marketing of tobacco products. This directive enforces an EU wide ban on cross-border tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the media, excepting television. The ban covers print media, radio, the Internet and sponsorship of events involving several Member States, such as the Olympic Games and Formula One races. According to the latest report from the Commission on the implementation of that directive, published in 2008, [2] all Member States have fully transposed the Directive. The Commission is not aware of any transposition gaps at a legislative level.

Anti tobacco campaigns on-line

On-line anti tobacco campaigns are also presented in this briefing. For example, in June 2011, the European Commission launched the "Ex-smokers are Unstoppable" campaign, which aimed to encourage young adults to stop smoking. Another initiative which falls under anti-tobacco campaigns on-line is the free digital health coaching platform iCoach.

Recent trends in on-line marketing in the US

The EPHA briefing also addresses the trends in on-line marketing in the US, by looking at tobacco products available on the Internet, through social media, as well as via the company websites. Tobacco companies are increasingly using Internet tools to increase the visibility of their products and promote specific brands. The major U.S. cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies reported expenditures on advertising on company websites and in Internet marketing increasing from $125,000 in 1998 to $17.8 million in 2008.

The EPHA briefing calls for more careful monitoring and studying of tobacco advertising on the Internet, as it is much less visible than most other forms of tobacco marketing.

- EPHA BRIEFING: On-line marketing of tobacco products (pdf)

EPHA related articles


[1] Gaps in the WHO European Region regarding direct tobacco advertising and promotion ban,

[2] Report on the implementation of the EU Tobacco Advertising Directive COM(2008) 330 final DG,

Last modified on June 9 2014.