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We call on Parliament to make tobacco industry limit one's interference with work of mass media. Statement

07.07.2021, 16:06

The large number of advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products in the Ukrainian mass media points at not only the imperfection of the mechanisms of appropriate control, but also at failures of the current regulatory framework in general. Policies to counter the proliferation of tobacco industry messages should include systematic and comprehensive measures to prevent double standards regarding the prohibition of advertising, as well as the dissemination of manipulation and misinformation by tobacco producers through mass media. 

The last major changes in Ukrainian anti-tobacco legislation, which in particular concerned the activities of the tobacco industry in mass media, took place in 2012, when cigarette advertising has been banned. Over the past five years, the tobacco industry has developed and electronic smoking devices have gone on sale, which are not covered by the advertising ban.

In particular, this came to the fore with the fact that since last five years, due to some various reasons, including financial woes, some Ukrainian media, are actively involved in commercial cooperation with the tobacco industry under wide range of forms. On commercial terms, they publish reports that do not meet the professional standards of journalism and are hidden advertising. As a result, these mass media neglects professional and ethical standards and sometimes misinforms about the safety of smoking electronic devices.

Supervising compliance with advertising legislation is a weak point of state policy on public health protection from tobacco’s detriment, so the introducing international standards on the comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship to the domestic legislation is an important element of this state policy. An important role in this process should be played by the adoption of new legislation on public health protection from the harmful effects of tobacco, which, in particular, will limit the interference of the tobacco industry in the work of mass media.

We believe that strengthening legislation to ban advertising, promote the sale and sponsorship of electronic smoking devices, including online media, will create a level playing field for all media and indirectly reduce the detriment of smoking to the health of the nation. After all, some media outlets now adhere to high professional standards of journalism and refuse to earn money through tobacco advertising, while others neglect professional standards in exchange for high-yield commercial projects supported by the tobacco industry. This leads to significant financial injustice in the media sector and de facto destroys fair competition, where mass media which do not abide by ethics make more profit than those ones who respect ethics, although this is high-quality journalism that should earn money. 

Bill  #4358 offers a comprehensive approach to solving the problem of interaction between the mass media and the tobacco industry with strict control over compliance with uniform rules, in particular in domain of advertising. Certainly, mass media outlets that neglect professional standards, the responsibility for disseminating inaccurate information that harms the health of the nation in exchange for highly lucrative commercial projects with the tobacco industry, they don’t like it.

We are convinced: as to the ethical side of the question "Should any mass media cooperate with the tobacco industry?", this does pose threat, while leaving it to the discretion of each individual mass media outlet. This issue requires a response from the state at the legislative level, as it affects one of the most fundamental public interests, which is public health.

Further disregard by the legislator for the tobacco industry interfering with mass media not only affects the media market, but also contributes to the position that the media, especially online ones, are not responsible for disseminating inaccurate information that harms the health of the nation.

In summary, we call on the parliament to adopt in the second reading and in general the bill on public health protection from the harmful effects of tobacco №4358 as soon as possible.

Independent media council 

NGO "Detektor Media"

NGO Foundation "Society"

NGO The "Institute of Mass Information"

NGO "Internews-Ukraine"

NGO "Center for Democracy and Rule of Law"

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