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Jennifer Mindell spotted a new venue for cigarette advertising in the UK in 1997—fuel pump handles at petrol (gas) stations.1 In April of this year, I came across the same marketing technique in Somerset, Pennsylvania, USA, at a Turkey Hill Minit Market, where this convenience store and an Exxon gas station are operated jointly.
On the day I visited the Minit Market, all of the cigarette ads appearing on the fuel pump handles promoted a special sale of Camel, Winston, and Salem cigarettes (RJ Reynolds) for $25.48 a carton (fig1). Similar ads appeared inside the store on a self service cigarette display rack. Some of the fuel pump handles advertised food or beverage products. A sales clerk informed me that the ads on the fuel pumps rotated among several different brands of foods, beverages, and cigarettes. She showed me a list of the products involved in the rotation, which included another cigarette brand sold by RJ Reynolds (Doral), as well as Marlboro and Basic cigarettes (Philip Morris), and GPC and Viceroy cigarettes (Brown and Williamson).
The sales clerk told me that decisions about which products were to be featured in these promotions came from the Turkey Hill headquarters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. But because the cigarette ads on the fuel pump handles include the brands' logos and the Surgeon General's warning, one must assume that the cigarette companies authorised (or were directly involved in) these ad placements. No doubt they recognise the value of fuel pump ads, as explained by a British marketing company that sells space on the nozzles:
“Our advertisers are communicating their message on a one-to-one basis directly to their end-customer, in an undisturbed environment for an average of two to three minutes at a time when the customer has little alternative but to hold the message in their hand and gaze at it.”1
On its website (www.turkeyhill.com), Turkey Hill has a calendar of events supported by the company. The calendar for April 2001 included an Easter egg run benefiting a paediatric rehabilitation centre, a walk for multiple sclerosis, a race/walk for breast cancer research, and a “loving & caring annual walk-for-life” in support of “life-affirming organizations across the county”. Given the “life-affirming” efforts by Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, and Brown & Williamson to stamp out world hunger, domestic violence, poverty, homelessness, and many other social ills,2-4opportunities for partnership between Big Tobacco and Turkey Hill would seem to be endless.