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In an earlier article (Tobacco Control 2001;10:196–7) Todd Harper described how the tobacco industry has made the move into “below the line marketing”, including events management and relationship marketing, following bans on most forms of tobacco advertising in Australia.
Following the passage of new and strengthened tobacco control legislation in Western Australia in 2006, point-of-sale advertising is now prohibited and the display of tobacco products is restricted to an area of one square meter inside retail outlets.
Consequently, there is even more pressure on tobacco companies to find innovative ways to promote their product, particularly to teenagers and young adults. In the last few years the tobacco industry has turned its attention to outdoor music events.
The strategy involves “sponsoring” popular outdoor music events during the summer months in Western Australia. In exchange for its “sponsorship” the tobacco company receives the use of a prime location near the stage for its tent, of which two sides are open, providing an alfresco atmosphere for its “smoking” chairs and bean bags. Inside the tent is a dedicated kiosk selling only one brand of cigarettes, staffed by attractive young women eager to engage in conversation with customers.
While we have not yet sighted the “sponsorship” contract between the event organiser and the tobacco company, it has been indicated that the tobacco company may have paid A$1 (84 US cents) per attendee for the privilege of associating its brand with a popular music event and selling its cigarettes to an important target group. If this were so, then given the numbers attending one recent event, organisers would have received upwards of A$50 000 (US$42,100)—well in excess of the rates normally charged to other food and beverage outlets.
Health organisations are working with the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway), and local governments, to replace these tobacco company “sponsorships” with a health sponsorship to promote an appropriate health message. This would also serve to remove the opportunity for cigarette sales at these events.