Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What - Me Advertise?

Not advertising? A young boy mans a sidewalk sales stand offering candies and cigarettes, which are featured in a slick display ad.
Why did this street vendor open these cigarette cartons?
How else could she sell smokes by the stick?
The Marlboro Men are dying off, many killed by the cigarettes they marketed; Michael Schumacher's days of being a tobacco billboard are over; and even Colombia has banned tobacco advertising and the practice of selling cigarettes by the stick - which makes it easy for kids to start smoking.

So, with today's headlines reporting that the world's cancer deaths will double - and many of those from tobacco in developing nations like Colombia - why doesn't Colombia bother to enforce its own tobacco control laws?

Yesterday's El Tiempo:
 'World cancer cases to double in 20 years.'
Colombia's tobacco control law prohibited tobacco advertising - but included a loophole large enough to drive a display ad thru. The law excepted displays for cigarettes and for the tobacco merchants, the line between display and advertisement is evidently an easy one to cross over.

The law also prohibited the sale of cigarettes 'by the stick,' or as 'loosies.' That part has simply been ignored, by both street vendors and the police. For proof, just take a look at any street vendor, whose open cigarette boxes are next to candies - convenient for teenagers who have only a few hundred pesos in their pockets.

What, me advertise?
Police could easily combat this practice with sting operations - have kids try to buy cigarettes, and confisticate the cigarettes from any vendor who sells to them. But the police just don't bother.

Today, someone observed to me, borrowing from Noam Chomsky, that tobacco kills far more people and is far more addictive than is cocaine. But, while the US finances coca leaf erradication in Colombia, it has, at least in the past, helped the tobacco industry. For that matter, many Colombian cigarettes are made and marketed by U.S. companies.

A vendor advertises cigarettes and sells loosies near the entrance to the Universidad del Rosario, in La Candelaria.
A street vendor in central Bogotá sells cigarettes by the stick. 
Sensual smoking in Shakira's latest video. The singer has a foundation for poor kids, but perhaps their health isn't so important. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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