OPINION: More honesty needed in tobacco ad discussions

Campaign came across some Brazilian tobacco ads for BAT’s Free brand last week, aimed directly at getting young people to smoke. ’It’s always worth taking risks,’ was the gist of one; ’first we go crazy, then we see what happens,’ was another. They unashamedly try to make smoking an act of teenage rebellion.

Campaign came across some Brazilian tobacco ads for BAT’s Free

brand last week, aimed directly at getting young people to smoke. ’It’s

always worth taking risks,’ was the gist of one; ’first we go crazy,

then we see what happens,’ was another. They unashamedly try to make

smoking an act of teenage rebellion.



Such advertising puts last week’s furore over the Government’s apparent

U-turn on tobacco marketing restrictions into context. The Brazilian ads

are abhorrent to us after years of health warnings and the ever tighter

noose around the necks of tobacco marketers here. But there’s also

something refreshing about their honesty.



The most cynical argument in favour of retaining tobacco advertising is

that it doesn’t try to persuade young people to smoke. The stylish and

witty content and execution of most press and poster ads has long done

just that. Legislation and self-regulation have merely prevented it from

being so overt.



Sponsorship of the glamorous world of Formula One racing is much more

blatant. As the Government declined to acknowledge during the recent

fiasco, the general public makes no distinction between sponsorship,

direct mail and advertising. To consumers it is all advertising, which

is why there is such a continuing outcry from the anti-smoking

lobby.



Campaign has been criticised by ad lobby groups for not being more

vociferous in defending tobacco advertising. Well, we feel we have made

our position very clear, but it’s worth reiterating. There’s only one

admissible defence of tobacco advertising: tobacco is a legally

available product so manufacturers should be free to advertise it. All

other arguments about brand switching are the cynical manipulations of

the lobby groups. Now that it appears tobacco advertising will survive -

albeit dressed up as other marketing disciplines - it is time for a good

deal more honesty to creep into the debate.



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