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In Australia, the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act (1992) bans most forms of tobacco advertising and promotion. In response to restrictions, the tobacco industry has resorted to “below the line” activities such as event promotions at music festivals, fashion parades, private parties, bars, and nightclubs.1–7 At these events, tobacco products are promoted under the guise of “selling”. It is important to expose these promotional activities as they may constitute breaches of the Act.
An audit of nine heavily advertised large youth music events in Perth found that the tobacco industry was actively promoting tobacco products at these events. At the single indoor event, cigarettes were sold via a vending machine and there were no promotional activities. At the eight outdoor events, cigarettes were sold in tents set up as “chill-out” areas in which chairs were provided for people to relax. The tents were staffed by young women selling tobacco products, ancillary products, and merchandise (for example, beer holders bearing the Rizla cigarette paper logo). At two events “cigarette girls”, dressed in Peter Stuyvesant brand colours, walked around the venues with trays of cigarettes for sale.
Approximately half of the events were not restricted to those aged 18 years and over, thus exposing patrons aged under 18 years to the promotional activities of the tobacco companies.
Not only do youth music events provide direct access to a primary target market for tobacco companies, but they also allow the marketers to build brand images by associating their brands with youth popular culture. Smoking becomes associated with the enjoyable experience of the music and fun atmosphere of the events, thus reinforcing the behaviour of current smokers and building more positive attitudes towards smoking among experimenters and non-smokers.
The state government of Western Australia recently introduced legislation which, if enacted, will assist in controlling the promotion of tobacco products at events. Specifically, the proposed Tobacco Products Control Bill 20058 will ban the mobile selling of tobacco products (currently not considered to be promotion, and permitted as “selling”). It also contains provisions to prohibit the sale or supply of tobacco products via temporary premises at events that are expected to attract significant numbers of people aged under 18 years. This proposed new legislation will further restrict the marketing opportunities of tobacco companies.