30 June 2011
Big Tobacco is taking its aggressive marketing online and those fighting to curb smoking rates need to follow suit.Photo: Craig Abraham
Sun Tzu wrote that “all warfare is based on deception”. This maxim seems to have been taken to heart by Big Tobacco as it seeks to use the fight over plain packaging, which is destined for the courts, to distract from a more important advertising realm – social media.
From the perspective of Big Tobacco, a federal government ban on plain packaging is not the greatest threat it faces. Far from it. Plain packaging is like the killing of Osama Bin Laden – an important and sweet victory for coalition forces – but not the main game. The danger to our anti-smoking heroes is that if they focus all their efforts on this battle, then the enemy may outflank them.
The real fight is quickly unfolding in social media. Evidence is emerging, including from the World Health Organization and the University of Sydney’s Becky Freeman and Simon Chapman, that Big Tobacco is moving its estimated annual marketing spend of tens of billions of dollars online – and fast.
The incredible growth of “consumer driven” online fan groups for the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel, plus viral YouTube content and slick sponsorships are evidence of the marshalling of the troops on this front. Brands are being strengthened and smoking initiated with the help of social media. The government and public health campaigners are engaged in these fights yet distraction from them could give Big Tobacco the time it needs to dig trenches, secure allies and settle in for the long term. It is in the interests of Big Tobacco to keep the campaign focused on the plain-packaging front.
Of course the fight for plain packaging must be won, as many assume it will. But anti-smoking advocates, including government, should also consider what mix of limited public resources is most effective. Policy makers often argue that the best solutions to problems are better regulation. And in many cases they are right, including on smoking.
Some efforts are made to complement regulation with public awareness campaigns and appeals to industry, however, often these are ineffective and sometimes add to the problem. Typically this returns the focus to regulations. Yet in the complex online world, regulation will take a long time to catch up as control shifts from companies and governments to users, consumers and citizens.
But there is good news for those fighting the good fight. While anti-smoking policy makers grapple with the application of conventions and regulations to social media, there is evidence that beating Big Tobacco at their own game through social marketing is effective at preventing smoking initiation, especially among young people.
Both anti-smoking advocates and Big Tobacco are fighting the plain-packaging battle because they start from the same premise – marketing works. However, an entrenched resistance to marketing among many policymakers is proving to be one of the biggest barriers to success in the war against Big Tobacco. Rather than resist marketing, anti-smoking campaigners should trust evidence that marketing can help convert consumers to healthier lifestyles. And this could hold the key to success in the difficult-to-regulate social media realm.
Success from social marketing campaigns shows us the way to beat Big Tobacco. These include the Truth (anti-smoking) program from the US which, according to George Washington University’s W. Douglas Evans, is building its brand through social media with positive images of non-smoking youth as cool and confident rebels fighting against the tobacco industry. Others include the Queensland alcohol campaign “Becky’s not drinking”, the SunSmart campaign against skin cancer “Slip! Slop! Slap! and many others. These campaigns were successful because they understood the barriers and benefits to behaviours, how influence is disseminated and they didn’t wag their fingers or treat people as stupid. These campaigns built brands that people trust.
The concepts of connection, dissemination and trust are the fundamentals of social media, where Big Tobacco is starting to assert dominance. If we concentrate our limited resources on regulation over plain packaging and not enough in social media, we risk being distracted by Big Tobacco and losing the war against smoking.
Nicholas Goodwin works in social marketing and international development and is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney’s Department of Media and Communications in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He tweets using @nickgoodwin.
Last year, China’s tobacco industry generated $A89 billion in revenue and
contributed $A74 billion in taxes, almost 7 per cent of total tax revenue.
The number of cigarettes it produces still grows, up 40 per cent in a decade
Thursday, 30 June 2011
Doctors at the BMA’s annual conference are urging UK governments to introduce legislation to ban smoking while driving a motor vehicle.
They also passed a motion demanding that tobacco companies be forced to publish all payments to politicians and political organisations.
And during a debate on alcohol policy they once again called on the UK governments to introduce a realistic minimum price for alcohol.
Speaking in favour of the motion on smoking in vehicles, Northern Ireland Junior Doctors Committee Chairman Dr David Farren said: “I really like this motion, as it would improve transparency and perhaps highlight the political agenda of tobacco companies”. And Dr Charles Saunders, joint deputy chairman of the BMA’s Scottish Council speaking after the debate said:
“Tobacco smoke is a potent cocktail of over 4,000 toxins, including 50 known to cause cancer. Smoking in the confined space of a car is therefore a toxic threat to health and people sharing a car with a smoker will be exposed to in-car particle concentrations 27 times higher than in a smokers home and 20 times higher than the levels found in a smoky pub before the ban on smoking in public places was introduced. Rolling down the window does not eliminate this risk.
“Children exposed to smoking in cars will be at risk of the harmful effects of second hand smoke including persistent wheeze and respiratory disorders.
He said that the British Lung Foundation estimate that more than half of 8 to 15 year olds have been exposed to smoking in cars and 86% of children want people to stop smoking when they are in the car.
“There is an increasing awareness amongst the general population of the risks of exposure to second hand smoke and banning smoking in cars is another way in which we can protect non-smokers from the risk of harm from second hand smoke.
On the motion calling for a realistic minimum price for alcohol Dr Sue Robertson, a renal physician and member of the BMA’s Scottish Council, said: “I am delighted that doctors across the UK supported the motion as it sends a clear message to politicians at Westminster and in the devolved nations. A new bill for minimum pricing in Scotland is expected in the autumn and I hope this, as part of a wider alcohol strategy, will lead the rest of the UK in taking the much needed steps to tackle our country’s culture of excessive drinking.”
29 June 2011
The Government is throwing its support behind Australia in its fight against tobacco giant Philip Morris, as unbranded cigarette packets look likely to be introduced in New Zealand.
Tobacco giant Philip Morris Asia is threatening to sue the Australian Government over its plans to severely restrict advertising on cigarette packaging, with new laws set to be introduced by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
The laws would restrict tobacco industry logos and brand imagery, with only the product name in standardised text allowed on the packet. All packets would be green, a colour research has shown is unattractive to smokers.
Australia will be the first country to introduce the laws, and Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said New Zealand was watching the situation closely to see how best to follow.
“We are very supportive of Australia’s initiative and it is our expectation that New Zealand will inevitably follow their lead and look to introduce the plain packaging of tobacco products.”
It was no surprise that tobacco companies could “see the writing on the wall”, and were feeling threatened, she said.
“Tobacco companies are very wealthy – they make a lot of money from peddling their dangerous, deathly, addictive product – and they clearly have no problem instigating legal challenges even if they have little chance of success.”
Philip Morris has filed legal action against Australia under that country’s bilateral trade agreement with Hong Kong, which means the Government has to protect Hong Kong investments in Australia.
Mrs Turia said officials would look at New Zealand trade agreements when drafting plain-packaging laws, to see how to counter legal challenges from the tobacco industry.
“Like Australia, we are probably in a position where the public health arguments for tobacco control outweigh the tobacco company interests, but … we are also mindful of doing things in a way that is not going to unnecessarily cut across our trade interests.”
But Green Party MP Russel Norman called for the removal of “perverse” investor rights given to foreign companies in free trade agreements, saying they would allow Philip Morris to sue New Zealand – possibly for billions of dollars. “That means taxpayers will be funding big tobacco’s profits. That’s not free trade, that’s global extortion.”
A report on possible alignment with Australia’s packaging laws is set to be reviewed by Cabinet.
The Government has already committed to making the country smokefree by 2025.
29 June 2011
A newly launched $1.5-billion lawsuit against contraband tobacco manufacturers across Canada could change the way the RCMP attempts to snuff out the trade of illegal cigarettes.
Cpl. Robert Fullerton of New Brunswick’s RCMP customs and excise unit says a lawsuit by Canada’s largest tobacco company Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. may shift greater police focus to eliminating illegal smokes at the source.
“It might change the way we do enforcement,” Fullerton said. “Right now we seem to be more concentrated on the end users than the manufactures.
“Maybe this is going to see the government force us to target the manufacturing more.”
Imperial Tobacco launched the lawsuit this month against what it labeled as contraband tobacco manufacturers and retailers on First Nations reserves.
Imperial also wants to bring smaller producers – whether operating legally or not – in as third parties to lawsuits it faces from the New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia governments.
The provinces are suing tobacco giants, including Imperial Tobacco, for health-care costs from tobacco-related illnesses.
The result of the lawsuits could focus the public eye on the large existence of illegal tobacco in the country, which big tobacco maintains is illegal competition to a regulated industry.
The RCMP has special units to deal with contraband tobacco and organized crime surrounding the trade. In 2010, the RCMP seized approximately 782,000 cartons and bags of illegal cigarettes nationwide.”It’s going to be very interesting to see how the government reacts,” Fullerton said.
Imperial was also critical of New Brunswick’s move in March to increase the tobacco tax in the province, saying the government had “set out the province’s welcome mat for organized crime to expand its thriving contraband business in the east.”
The Alward government’s first provincial budget, released in March, increased the tobacco tax by 45 per cent – a move that exceeds the request of the Canadian Cancer Society. The jump equates to an increase of 5.25 cents per cigarette, $1.31 per pack, $10.50 per carton and an extra $25 million in new government revenue.
Fullerton, who is based in Edmundston, said that there has yet to be an influx in illegal cigarette seizures since the tax increase, despite expectations that there in fact could be. New Brunswick RCMP spokesman Cpl. Yann Audoux said the amount of illegal tobacco seized in the last three months was not available yesterday.
More than 350,000 illegal cigarettes were seized at two traffic stops on the Trans Canada Highway in the Edmundston area on the same day last month.
In both cases, the cigarettes and the vehicles used to transport them were seized and will be forfeited.
In April, police also seized 124 cartons of illegal cigarettes at a home in Tracadie-Sheila.
Last week, the RCMP customs and excise section executed a search warrant at a residence near Sussex.
During the search, officers seized approximately 9,800 illegal cigarettes.
It also executed a search warrant at a residence in Albert Mines where more than 100 cartons of illegal cigarettes were seized.
June 28, 2011 – 10:25 am, by Melissa Sweet
Professor Simon Chapman writes:
This week British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) launched its latest salvo in its propaganda war against plain packs.
A new website allows visitors to click on any federal electorate (“Find your electorate”).
Once inside a selected electorate we read the estimate of illegal tobacco sales, with tax foregone derived from data compiled by Deloitte in 2011.
When you estimate illegal sales, you have to base it on survey data of what smokers tell you.
BATA are thoughtful enough to link to the report itself and on page 20, we read that Deloitte sourced Roy Morgan data gathered for BATA and that at 126.96.36.199 “Key requirements of sample: Adult participants who qualified for the survey satisfied the following criteria: Aged between 18-64 years. Resided in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide.”
On page 39, we can see that just 949 smokers completed the survey in these cities about whether they ever used illicit tobacco.
So BATA have taken city data and applied it to every electorate around Australia.
Apparently, smuggled tobacco is as easy to buy in Oodnadatta as it is in Redfern, Toorak or Vaucluse. It’s just the same with all consumer goods, right?
Deloitte seemed prescient when it handed over the report to the tobacco industry. A caveat reads “ No one else, apart from British American Tobacco Australia Limited, Philip Morris Limited and Imperial Tobacco Australia Limited are entitled to rely on this Report for any purpose.”
That would include .. .well … everyone else.
• Simon Chapman is professor of public health at the University of Sydney
• Meanwhile, over at The Conversation, Donald Rothwell, professor at the ANU College of Law, analyses the case that Philip Morris is launching against plain packaging under Australia’s bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong. He doesn’t give the company much chance of success.
28 June 2011
The Smoking Baby. The 2-year-old is more than just a YouTube sensation. He’s also become the unwitting poster child for a 21st century showdown. Vanguard correspondent Christof Putzel travels to Indonesia — the land of smoking toddlers and cigarette sponsored everything — where the stage is set for a David vs. Goliath battle as a small, underfunded group of concerned citizens battle Big Tobacco and a government drunk on profits and denial. “”Sex, Lies & Cigarettes”” charts Big Tobacco’s attempt to expand its reach into Indonesia, which by all accounts has become the “Wild West” of cigarette marketing and promotion.