Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires signatories to ‘undertake a comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship’. The FCTC defines advertising and promotion very broadly, as
"any form of commercial communication, recommendation or action with the aim, effect or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly."
The Implementation Guidelines for the FCTC specify that:
"…a comprehensive ban… applies to all forms of commercial communication, recommendation or action and all forms of contribution to any event, activity or individual with the aim, effect, or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly. (Italics as per original.)"
It is therefore of concern to see that Imperial Tobacco has launched a social media campaign around the ‘Smoke Spots’ website in the UK (http://www.smoke-spots.co.uk). The site's launch was announced on Imperial Tobacco's Twitter account in July 2013, describing Smoke Spots as a ‘website for smokers’ which enables consumers to ‘find bars, restaurants and clubs with smoking facilities as well as locate outlets selling tobacco’. Imperial Tobacco's Head of Consumer Marketing was quoted in a company press release to support the launch as saying: "‘With this great new initiative, we are giving our consumers the chance to interact and form an online community where they can share great smoking experiences with each other.’"
The goal of creating an online community where consumers can ‘share great smoking experiences’ would appear to be inconsistent with the FCTC's ban on directly or indirectly promoting tobacco use.
In short, they are saying that telling smokers which pubs have smoking areas is a form of tobacco advertising and is therefore illegal. Bear that in mind if anyone ever asks you if a pub has a beer garden. It could be a sting operation.
The launch video and photos of launch events on Smoke Spots’ Facebook page show the Smoke Spots team surprising smokers in London, rolling out a red carpet, with chairs, music, food and drink, all presumably encouraging smokers to sit down and enjoy their cigarettes, sometimes in front of a prominent banner: ‘Smoke Spots—You choose where you drink, why not where you smoke?’. It is difficult to interpret the creation of such an atmospheric and enjoyable ‘event’ in any other way than directly promoting smoking.
One of the difficulties in regulating promotion of tobacco online is that it is often hard to distinguish between pro-smoking posts created by individuals unrelated to tobacco companies and clandestine posts by agents of tobacco companies posing as consumers.
Silence them all! Censor! The FCTC says you can.
There are no words to adequately express how insane the anti-smoking movement has become. Fanatics have always been with us, but they have traditionally been restricted to expressing themselves in letters to regional newspapers written in green ink. Today, they are given their own journals.
There is no doubt that the FCTC's guidelines—and they are only guidelines—are very badly written, probably because they were created by anti-smoking campaigners rather than lawyers. Nevertheless, did anyone really intend there to be a prohibition on telling people where they can smoke? Was it really the intention to make "encouraging smokers to sit down and enjoy their cigarettes" a crime?
This is what the fruitloops do. They take vague and badly written rules and extend them beyond the bounds of sanity. Take Article 5.3 of the FCTC, for example. Article 5.3 simply says that tobacco industry should not have undue influence on public health policy making. Specifically, it says: “in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”. This means, for example, that "any interaction with the tobacco industry on matters related to tobacco control or public health is accountable and transparent".
That's fair enough (and it should - but doesn't - apply to other industries, eg. Pharma), but the anti-smoking lobbyists have tried to gold plate it at every turn. They act as if Article 5.3 legally forbids any interaction between policy-makers and the tobacco industry, which it doesn't, and then extend the definition of tobacco industry to virtually everybody who is not in their tiny cult.
Sometimes they go even further. Take the case of Katsuhiko Honda, the former president of Japan Tobacco. That's former president, please note. He no longer works at the company, although he is said to be affiliated as a consultant. After leaving, he applied to work at the Japan Broadcasting Company (NHK), a television network. Cue outrage from anti-smoking loons:
The Japanese Government ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004, and has an obligation to observe the treaty under Japanese Constitution article 98.2. Article 5.3 of the FCTC states: "Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law". The government should avoid the influence of tobacco industry to pursue its policy.
Appointment by the Japanese parliament of a former president and now consultant of JT as the CEO of NHK would be a fundamental breach of Japan’s obligations under the FCTC.
We stand together with our colleagues from around the world who have also expressed concern about the possible appointment. NHK is broadcast in more than ten languages globally; its reach and influence is international.
What the hell is wrong with these people? The dude was trying to get a job in television, not at the ministry of health. Incredibly, the antis seemed to have won this fight last summer, but the issue came up again in November when Mr Honda was invited to sit on its board of governors. Cue more wailing...
“This appointment is troubling for many reasons, work in tobacco control being just one. Nonetheless, the fact that this appointment violates Japan’s international obligations under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3 seems very clear."
It really isn't "very clear". On the contrary, it murky, paranoid gibberish. These people seem to think that the FCTC gives them the right to silence their critics and ruin anyone who has ever worked in the tobacco industry. Their censorious authoritarianism knows no bounds. An iron fist, indeed.