Tobacco Asia

Volume 20, Number 5

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62 tobaccoasia / Issue 5, 2016 November / December By Tobaccochina Online Cigarette brands in China, under the system of state tobacco monopoly, have entered a no-advertising era as a result of the interim measures for manage- ment over advertising on the internet (hereinafter referred as "the measures") announced by the gen- eral administration for industry and commerce on September 1. The measures specifically stipulate that "Any use of the internet to release advertisements of prescription drugs or tobacco shall be prohibited", and provide detailed and specific definitions of ad- vertisements on the Internet. The implementation of the measures will undoubtedly mean a full-scale ban on tobacco advertising on the internet. Article 22 of the advertising law amended in 2015 specifically provides that "Any release of tobacco advertisements through media of mass communication or at public places, means of pub- lic transportation, or outdoor places shall be pro- hibited." In an effort to prevent legal loopholes on tobacco advertising or tobacco advertising in disguised forms, the same article also says that "Any use of the advertisements of other goods or services or public-interest advertisements to publi- cize the names, trademarks, packages, decorations, or similar contents of tobacco products shall be prohibited." Definition of "mass communication" unclear However, the definition of "media of mass com- munication" by the advertising law has not been specific enough. Therefore, it has become a com- mon occurrence that emerging media, including the WeChat web and tweeting service, are often used in tobacco advertising. In 2013, there were few Chinese tobacco man- ufacturers that bothered to open official accounts for their cigarette brands on the WeChat web. However, in 2014, there was a sharp increase in the number of tobacco manufacturers that rushed to open such accounts. By September 2016, 17 Chinese tobacco manufacturers had opened offi- cial accounts on WeChat to promote their ciga- rette brands and boost sales. These WeChat ac- counts have quickly become a powerful means of promotion and driving sales of tobacco brands. Head-on blow to manufacturers However, the sudden announcement of the mea- sures dealt a head-on blow to the tobacco man- ufacturers. Article 3 of the measures, through "summarization and enumeration" provides a definition of advertising on the internet, which includes the following three parts: how advertise- ments are released, which refer to internet media channels such as websites, web pages, and inter- net application programs; the forms of advertise- ments, including the written form, the form of pictures, the audio form, and the visual form; and the purposes of the advertisements, whether it is to directly or indirectly promote goods or services. Chinese Cigarette Brands Enter No-advertising Era

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