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Belgium: retail incentives are child's play

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The British tobacco company Imperial Tobacco has been supplying Belgian retailers with an unusual gift with which to reward their loyal customers, presumably to encourage them to buy even more of the company's cigarettes. It is illegal to supply free gifts with tobacco products but so far giving a supply of gifts to retailers, to be handed out to customers at their discretion, has not been challenged by the government.

However, instead of something that might be suitable mainly for smokers themselves, Imperial Tobacco has gone for something rather more homely or at least more appropriate for homes with children. It is a game called Jenga, which normally costs €15–18 (US$21–26). Jenga is a game of physical and mental skill marketed by Hasbro, which describes itself as a worldwide leader in children's and family leisure time entertainment. Players of the game first build a tower from 54 wooden blocks, then take turns to remove them one by one from a layer other than the top one, placing them on top until the tower collapses. The player who caused the collapse is the loser.

By contrast, when children play the game of smoking, the loser is the one who keeps taking the cigarettes, which can cause the eventual collapse of the lung and other organs. This is why tobacco companies say they do not want children to start smoking. But while Jenga is described as suitable for children aged 6 years and above, its packaging has the same colours as Bastos, a leading Imperial Tobacco cigarette brand in Belgium. Whatever can Imperial Tobacco be thinking of?

Figure1
Belgium: Jenga, the game supplied by BAT to Belgian retailers to reward their best customers and a pack of its Bastos cigarette brand.
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