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
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.