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The Czech Republic’s current advertising ban dates from 2003, but there are strong signs that it needs to be strengthened. The law bans all forms of advertising and promotion of tobacco products, including sponsorship. Unfortunately, however, the use of tobacco products’ names or mention of their supposed attributes is only banned on radio and television. This is currently exploited by BAT’s Pall Mall brand, which has been promoting a range of clothes on billboards in Prague. In addition, BAT used the Pall Mall brand name in its sponsorship of the country’s world renowned film festival, Febiofest, in both 2006 and 2007. Such activities apparently get round the country’s laws, though to date, there have been no serious challenges.
Not content with such brand stretching and promotion of the brand name in association with a much publicised cultural activity, BAT also uses its continuing marketing activities for lobbying purposes, to try to prevent additional measures known to be effective in reducing tobacco consumption. For example, an ad for Febiofest in 2006 proclaimed not only BAT’s status as the principal sponsor of the film festival, but also its support for “efficient ventilation and a pleasant environment for smokers and non-smokers in selected Prague facilities.” Similarly, using a favourite tobacco sophistry to try to prevent tax rises by diverting attention to the sale of fake and smuggled cigarettes, ads in this year’s Fabiofest newspaper said, “Cigarette forgers did the state out of taxes for 2006 of at least 1.6 billion crowns [about US$78 million]. This money could pay for the filming of 50 full length films. 500 sports cars for the mafia, or 50 full length films? Choose for yourself.”
Of course, BAT knows full well that this is not a choice for the government, far less one that the general public can make. But it is free propaganda that will embed itself in the public psyche, and that of the country’s elected representatives, when it is time for those continuing acts of political bravery and clear sightedness that are regularly required to enforce and strengthen tobacco control laws.