For those who have the same warped sense of humour this Letter can also be had in French.
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Monday, November 28, 2011
Smoke and mirrors - cigarette adverts by another name
Dear Newspaper Readers,
It’s amazing how papers that have made their
names to a large extent on their investigative abilities have two types of
morality. There’s one for advertisers and another one for non-advertisers.
Non-advertisers accused of all kinds
of suspect activities will get nailed to the wall, but paying customers are
immune from this kind of treatment.
Is this what they call journalistic
licence? Is advertising allowed to have more flexible moralsthan the rest of
the paper?Is this what they mean
when they say, money
based Sunday Times and the Mail and Guardian (M&G)
have greedily carried huge cigarette advertisements from British American Tobacco (BAT). In the M&G it was a whole page and in the Sunday Times, which has a larger format, it took up
half a page.
These probably raked in a total of
close to half a million bucks for these papers.
with that you might ask? Nothing much except the suspect part was that BAT was using
smoke and mirrors to get round the South African law that
banns the advertising of tobacco products.
What was even more disturbing was
that the papers were quite prepared to go along with this without question,
even though another publication had earlier cast doubt on the veracity of
Big hearted BATwas suddenly concerned
that illegal cigarettes were costing
the country over R3 billion a year in lost tax revenue. This is what it told the
3.6 –million people who read these two national
publications each week.
the equivalent of the cost of more than 44 000 new policemen and
60 000 new homes, the adverts claimed
It deliberately failed to mention
the cost to the nation of treating the millions of people, including policemen,
whose health is affected or who die through smoking.
The main thrust of the advertisements was thatsmuggledcigarettes
bring crime syndicates intoyour neighbourhood.
So BAT and the papers that support this campaign
believe that it’s better to die a slow lingering death from lung cancer or some
other nicotine induced illness than to have bullets whizzing around your street.
If I had a choice I think I would rather take my chances in that crime riddled
neighbourhood that BAT is so worried about.
Earlier this year BATwas flying higher with scare tactics that were
even more ridiculous. It had billboards on major highways with messages like DANGER-Buying illegalcigarettes may fund hijackers
and armed robberies.
Complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority
(ASA) and it ordered BAT to pull the ads because there was no proof that
contraband cigarettes lead to violent crime. The
Authority convenientlyducked the issue of whether or not this was an
illegal means of adverting cigarettes.
In its issue of July
this year Noseweek, the News you’renot
suppose to knowmagazine, attacked this type of advertising saying, Tobacco
companies are blowing rings around the lawwith
subtle advertising and smuggling tricks.
How right it was. And the Government can’t be fagged to do anything while lives continue to
go up in smoke.
Significantly the magazine quoted from a
submission made to the World Health Organisation
by a group called Action on Smoking & Health Canada. It said that a company that doesnot ensure its brands are smuggled risks losing market
share to those that do. The evidence shows that companies treat smuggling as
just another distribution channel and manage it through third parties where
they control the price and availability of their products.
And low and behold, one
of the companies that does this, the group claimed, is none other than our
public spirited BAT.
So BAT if you are so worried
about the distribution of illegal smokes why don’t you do the decent thing and STOP making cigarettes
That way you will eradicate the gun
runners, the hijackers, the gangsters and all the other criminals and
contribute enormously to the general health of the nation and we can all live
happily ever afterwards.
Jon, a Non-smoker of Note, Consumer
Watchdog and Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman
I forgot to mention that BAT had this comforting, understatement at the end
of its ads, Smoking
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