ASH warns of tobacco companies’ stealth tactics

The Action for Smoking and Health (ASH) anti-smoking group is warning the Government not to allow tobacco companies to switch their advertising budgets into stealth marketing, following the ban of traditional advertising due to come into effect later this year.

Speaking after The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill received an unopposed third reading in Parliament this week, Amanda Sanford of ASH says: “There is a very real danger that tobacco manufacturers will continue to market through back-door tactics – providing financial support for websites, which covertly promote smoking, for instance.”

ASH warns that tobacco companies are searching for ways to exploit any potential loopholes. For instance, ASH has a leaked internal British American Tobacco (BAT) memo, outlining how the tobacco giant had put £2.5m into citygobo.com, a website guide to clubs, bars and restaurants. This would not be banned under the current legislation, as long as there was no advertising for cigarette brands on it.

The new bill outlaws all above-the-line advertising for tobacco products. Direct marketing and sales promotion will also be outlawed, as will brand-related websites. The only form of marketing that will be allowed is in-store, point-of-purchase material.

Tim Lord, chief executive of industry body the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, says: “The industry will absolutely comply with legislation. None of our members would do something that is illegal.”

The exact details of the ban will be set out in a list of regulations, a draft version of which the Department of Health published recently.

Consultation on this draft closes on November 15.

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