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All articles written by David Simpson unless otherwise attributed. Ideas and items for News Analysis should be sent to: David.Simpson@ctsu.ox.ac.uk

World: a display at the 2009 Tax Free World Association World Exhibition in Cannes, France, showing the total of funds to be donated by Imperial Tobacco for victims of floods in Pakistan and India. The company pledged to make a donation for every entry into a draw by those attending the exhibition.

World: disasters are ‘brand aid’ opportunities for tobacco

Philip Morris subsidiary Sampoerna's sponsorship of a rescue camp for evacuees from the slopes of the erupting Mount Merapi in Java highlights how the tragicomedy of tobacco industry corporate social responsibility thrives in disaster-hit regions of the world. Sampoerna is reported to have paid for the camp, its aid workers, who wear red and black uniforms with company logos, and the branded four-wheel drive cars and trucks that are parked on its perimeter.

The team is one of several aid efforts organised by large Indonesian corporations in response to Merapi's most violent eruptions for over 80 years. Early reports put the death toll at more than 250 people, with a further 150 000, mainly rural peasant farmers, reported to have been displaced. Aid workers claim that Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency was unprepared to cope with the large numbers displaced, providing corporate disaster relief teams with an ideal opportunity to augment the government's efforts to house, clothe and feed evacuees.

Representatives of the companies working on the mountain are reported to have said that their efforts are entirely altruistic, and have rejected suggestions that they are blurring the boundaries between aid and marketing. Local residents, however, remain unconvinced and have questioned why the companies can't just use unbranded vehicles and clothes. This is a fitting question in a country where tobacco kills an estimated 200 000 people each year and where …

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