REGULATION FIRE LIGHTS UP SO. AFRICA

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JOHANNESBURG-The brave new world in South Africa begun with the country's first all-race election is spilling over into advertising regulation.

Changes are afoot for tobacco ad restrictions and taxes to fund a national healthcare program. The new ruling party, The African National Congress, will propose June 22 the doubling of excise duties on both tobacco and alcohol. The degree to which advertising will be restricted is a matter of conjecture, although it will restrict only tobacco, not alcohol.

Tobacco spending is worth $35 million annually, and ads are now self-regulated. The only loosely stated stipulation currently is that tobacco ads will not encourage new smokers or more consumption. The industry voluntarily refrains from running ads on TV.

So far, several proposals have been put forward, including the use of 11 different warning messages on packaging (currently there are none). The warnings would take up a quarter of the front of a pack.

Tobacco products bear a discreet warning that smoking is a "health risk"-thanks to an agreement between the Department of Health and the tobacco industry.

The Tobacco Institute Chairman Joppie Graham said of the proposals, "It seems that the strategy is to compel the industry into a de facto end to advertising."

Ross Armstrong, managing director, Saatchi & Saatchi, Klerck & Barrett, said regulation would give the government "free rein to control commercial expression and freedom of speech."

The debate reached a peak May 31, the World Health Organization's No-Tobacco Day. The local Tobacco Action Group on that day showcased three posters, print ads and radio spots created by volunteers from Grey Health and other agencies.

One print ad, aimed at the media, states, "Don't let tobacco advertising sentence you to a life of smoking," encouraging media owners to think twice before accepting tobacco ads.

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