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Uganda: “Think and Win”—BAT hasn't changed

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BAT has changed, its public relations people are strenuously trying to assure the world. But there is no discernible change in its marketing practices, as a crude promotion to hundreds of children during the Showtime Football event in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, amply demonstrated last April. Even ignoring the fact that sales of individual sticks is the sort of practice BAT can no longer get away with in the west—we can hear them protest that local customs are different around the world—the name itself is clearly a cynical parody of the International Quit and Win smoking cessation competition. In the absurdly inappropriately named “Think and Win” competition, anyone purchasing a mere five of BAT's Embassy cigarettes was given an entry form for a competition. The forms went into a prize draw lottery for a cornucopia of desirable prizes, including a luxury holiday for two to South Africa. By little coincidence, it seems, the draw took place at the end of May, just about the time of the Quit and Win draw and the World Health Organization's World No Tobacco Day.

Embassy “Think and Win” competition entry form.

Scenes from the Embassy “Think and Win” promotion held during the Showtime Football event in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

Tackled later about the Think and Win Embassy promotion at the Showtime Football event, BAT's local head of corporate and regulatory affairs claimed that his team had operated just for a short time during the half time break at the soccer match. It seemed to be a case of just allowing enough time for people to buy their five cigarettes and grab an entry form. Unfortunately for BAT, a member of the ministry of health's Tobacco or Health group happened to be present all afternoon and well into the evening, and pictures of hundreds of children enjoying disco dancing shows on a stage throughout the period were published later in a local newspaper. By the time some of these were shot, it was clearly dark, and as the ground did not have floodlights, the match must have long since finished.

The Showtime Football promotion was only one among many. There were travelling promotions in expensive four wheel drive vehicles, and three regional draws, each the occasion of much publicity, with people lining up to sample a free Embassy cigarette or buy their qualifying five cigarettes to enter the competition. As obsequiously reported by the newspaper New Vision, which does a passable imitation of a BAT house journal, “Wherever Embassy went all over the country, there was no stopping the people who kept flowing in.” The actual promotions and the explanations that follow them may change, but clearly BAT has not.