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“Smoke to be Thin” screamed the women’s T shirt that will become a test of Australia’s tobacco advertising laws prohibiting the publication of tobacco advertisements.
Quit Victoria purchased one of the figure hugging women’s T shirts in Melbourne; similar shirts were purchased in Perth, Western Australia. SUPRÉ, with 101 stores across Australia, describes itself as a hip brand for young women. SUPRÉ’s website says its mission is to be at the forefront of global youth fashion: “SUPRÉ will definitely achieve this by focussing on: more fashion, better music, maximum excitement, total fun and much more sex appeal!!” However, the sale of the shirt may breach section 15 of Australia’s Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act. The Act defines a “tobacco advertisement” to mean “any writing . . .that gives publicity to, or otherwise promotes or is intended to promote . . .smoking.”
The Australian fashion industry is laced with examples of making smoking a chic accessory. Leading fashion designer Wayne Cooper has been in the spotlight for antics such as sending models down the runway with provocative slogans on T shirts such as “Can I Smoke In Here?”. The most insidious linkage of fashion and smoking has occurred through fashion events set up by Philip Morris under the guise of the “Wavesnet” brand. SUPRÉ defended its actions, saying it was a “tongue in cheek” exercise poking fun at girls who smoke to be thin.
“We are in the business of selling clothing and putting smart-alec slogans on clothing. I really don’t understand the drama,” said general manager Stephen Patrick. Despite this, the company withdrew the T shirt: “Clearly it was inappropriate and the shirt never went into full production,” Mr Patrick said. Quit Victoria has referred the matter to the Australian government for action under the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act. The Act carries a maximum penalty of A$12 000. Around 6000 women die in Australia each year from smoking related illness. The T shirt trivialises the leading cause of preventable death among Australian women. It seems almost beyond belief that a clothing chain that targets young women would actively promote such an irresponsible message.