Tobacco advertisement is against the Law … or is it?

The Maldivian Tobacco Control Law 15/2010 (Ratified on 18 August 2010) Article 16 states that:

“The name of any tobacco product, or a pictogram, picture, slogan, or anything or part of it that may denote the product should not be displayed to the public, for the purpose of advertising. Names of tobacco products, pictograms, pictures, slogans, or anything denoting a tobacco product or part of it must not be printed on anything that does not relate to tobacco, including buildings and such places, and displayed to the public for sale or for the purpose of advertising”.

When we look at the history, Maldives first took steps to control tobacco advertisement in 1994 when all forms of tobacco advertising were banned in the country through a regulation brought out on 31 May 1994 and came into effect on 1 January 1995, which of course, although not ideal, served more or less like a Law back then.

So did the tobacco distributors and importers really adhere to this regulation? One may see that since direct advertising was banned, there were limitations and hence the impact of advertising may not be that big in Maldives. I see it otherwise. In the many years I have been advocating for tobacco control, I have come across a number of instances where the regulations were breached.

American Legend. Sound any bells? Well, American Legend is a low quality cigarette that was imported to Maldives in large scale by one of the three main tobacco importers. The way they approached advertising was different. The idea, in my opinion was to make it a household name. Being a cheaper brand, the main target probably was islands and hence mainly this brand was sold wholesale in the shop around the northern side harbor area of Male. Cheap washing machines and water pumps were made and imported and promoted through the radio. Why radio? Most people in the islands listened to it that time. So, people had the analogy, I have an American Legend pump, washing machine and also I smoke American Legend. Appealing perhaps!!! A tactic, multinationals have used elsewhere in the world.

Marlboro van 2004

Around the same time, came the Marlboro era too! Umbrellas, lighters, t-shirts and many more paraphernalia were distributed. The more significant though was the Marlboro Van! Did you see it? Wit a lot of struggle and with a lot of meetings and correspondence, eventually the party gave up and repainted the van.

As you can see the effect created here is indirect but has a direct impact on what is actually being advertised. The pack design and the fonts! Amazing the extent that tobacco companies go to mislead the public.

In the modern day, tobacco advertising would be even more cunning. A form of tobacco advertising has crept in to our daily lives with out us even knowing that it is happening! We may not have a clue whether it is a tobacco advert, but yes, it is making and impact and it is deliberate.

First there were the ashtrays with a certain half circle covered with a head and a hump. Then came the small bill folders in brown leather. Yes and there was a certain word that came along with it …


This, the advertisers may see as a loophole in the law and get away with it. But no, it is well covered for exactly the same reason.

Open - closed boards where the O is always the hump

Point of sale advertising at the corner shop next to my house

The discover ashtrays, bill folders and even the open close boards at many shops all started to be common. Also when you walk into many shops, cigarettes are displayed in a discover box! (Point of sale advertising). So the discover logo became something that people see on a daily basis everywhere. Eventually, the big slogans of discover arrived. Just like before, vans have been painted and send to some atolls and the production is continuing.

So any clues where this is leading? Mass scale indirect tobacco advertising in here! But in this case I wouldn’t call it indirect either, because when you see the real picture, it is really direct. The discover display begins at the root of tobacco distribution in the country.

Discover what? “Discover Death”


Discover vans about to be dispatched








My research lead me to the root of the issue! Familiar?

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2 Comments on "Tobacco advertisement is against the Law … or is it?"

  1. yasiph
    05/10/2011 at 19:29 Permalink

    Nice “Discovery” 😛 Root of all Evil 🙂

  2. Hassan Mohamed
    06/10/2011 at 09:54 Permalink

    An excellent read. This is the return of the ugly face of the industry. Discover the ROOT of the problem. Keep up the good work. Lives are at stake here…corporate greed at the cost of human lives should not have a place in modern society.

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