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Lebanon: saying it with the packaging

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All articles written by David Simpson unless otherwise attributed. Ideas and items for News Analysis should be sent to: d.simpson{at}iath.org

Despite admissions about the unparalleled dangers of smoking that British American Tobacco (BAT) has been forced to make, some of its marketing activities are as inappropriate as ever. In Lebanon, where it seems to enjoy the government's perpetual dithering, BAT forges ahead with new developments. The latest is a re-packaging of its Kent brand, with a level of design glitz and hype that must beggar the understanding of those trying to treat patients with tobacco-related disease in Lebanon's hard-pressed hospitals.

A toenail curling, cringe making account of the launch, or reveal as it was termed, appeared in a glossy magazine in Beirut. Among the less absurd statements about the new pack was its description by a BAT man as a winning combination of metallic packaging and components to emphasise “quality and luxury, a brand identity of sophistication par excellence”. The magazine's panegyric went on to report that the re-launch was held in Otium, one of Beirut's top bar–restaurants. “An all white, Zen-like conceptual setting, coupled with a futuristic podium, stressed the style of Kent. Mini champagne bottles personalised for Kent, fusion finger food to delight the palate, lighting and music to set the mood, the select few invited were drawn into a New York loft atmosphere, for a reveal like no other. Revealed with high tech animations, sound effects and all, the new pack truly spoke for itself.”

Quite enough problems already face Lebanese public health workers trying to reduce their country's large burden of diseases caused by tobacco. With stuff like this still being pumped out by BAT and its friends, how on earth can they persuade the young people who throng Beirut's nightclubs that there is a 50% chance that smoking cigarettes will kill them?

Figure1
An image of BAT's new Kent packs for sale in Lebanon.
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