Cigarette advertising case in the Czech Republic – Leaflets in cigarette packs

A dispute between one of the largest cigarette producers, Philip Morris, and the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, over an advertising campaign, has reached the Supreme Administrative Court.

In 2015, the cigarette maker launched a campaign to insert advertising brochures promoting a consumer contest into Chesterfield cigarette packs. The problem here is that in the Czech Republic, tobacco advertising is strictly regulated by the Advertising Regulation Act, which makes it practically prohibited with a few well-defined exceptions. Besides advertising in periodicals for specialists in the tobacco trade and sponsorship of motorsport competitions, one of the few types of advertising permitted are those located in specialty tobacco stores and in sections of stores intended for sale. tobacco products (cigarette advertising is not permitted in places other than these).

This was the exception that Philip Morris was attempting to apply in the case of the mentioned advertising leaflets, arguing that a given leaflet was inserted into cigarette packs placed either in specialty tobacco stores or in designated tobacco sections. other stores. However, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce rejected this argument, arguing that from the moment the package is sold, it leaves the store and therefore leaves the “authorized area”, and imposed a fine for advertising. not allowed. The regional court accepted the reasoning of the ministry and Philip Morris therefore appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court. However, the tobacco manufacturer also failed to convince the Supreme Administrative Court with its argument. The administrative court said that the aim of the legislation was to minimize the spread of tobacco advertising, thereby reducing the number of smokers and preventing new addictions. It concluded that it is apparent from the wording of the exemptions that their objective is to restrict the appearance of tobacco advertising only to places where tobacco products are sold. They therefore only apply to advertising items permanently placed at the point of sale, and therefore cannot be disseminated publicly and influence the public outside the point of sale. However, in the present case, that could not have been the case, the advertising leaflet having been inserted in packets of cigarettes intended for consumers, which are by their very nature presumed to be ‘distributed’ outside authorized places. Since the leaflets were placed inside the packages, making it impossible to view them before opening, it can hardly be concluded that the advertisement was meant to be seen in the designated areas. On the contrary, due to their location, the leaflets had a greater effect outside the designated premises, as no customer would likely open the package inside the store to leave the leaflet there.

Philip Morris therefore lost the case and is forced to pay the fine imposed. Which, however, is rather symbolic in this case – only 20,000 CZK, which equates to around 800 euros.

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