Proof at last: tobacco admen think smokers are 'stupid'
Sunday 25 April 1999
Leaked documents, kept secret for nearly 25 years by British American Tobacco, reveal the "contempt'' felt by the advertising moguls for the teenagers they were trying to persuade to smoke.
The documents, dating back to 1975, recommend that cigarettes be linked with adult initiation rites such as "shaving" and "wearing a bra". And they suggest that smoking be linked to taking illegal drugs, having sex and drinking beer.
They show that Ted Bates and Co, the firm that framed ads for brands such as Lucky Strike, wanted to get teenagers to smoke by creating "a situation based on the day-to-day life of young smokers".
The strategy, based on a series of focus groups with young people carried out by a market research company, concluded that smokers "have to face the fact that they are illogical, irrational and stupid".
BAT, the second largest tobacco multinational in the world, will face stiff questioning about the leaked documents when it holds its AGM this week.
Anti-smoking campaigners say the papers show that cigarette advertising is based on utter contempt for customers.
"This document gives a rare peep into what's really going on in the minds of people pushing tobacco to young people," said Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health. "This shows that all they really care about is making money."
The comments have also been condemned by the De-partment of Health which last year launched a pounds 110m anti-smoking campaign. It says the documents prove their view that much of tobacco advertising has been aimed at children.
"We have consistently said that the tobacco industry targets children in advertising. Cigarette manufacturers have consistently denied it," said a Department of Health source. "Anyone who thinks it's clever to take up smoking will be interested to know that the industry thinks they are a mug."
The report, "What Have We Learned From People", was conducted for Ted Bates and Co from a market research firm and presented to Brown & Williamson, a subsidiary of BAT, as a way of promoting Viceroy cigarettes for non- smokers and people who used competing brands.
The advertising document offers advice on how to make cigarettes appeal to young people. It says: "In the young smokers' mind, a cigarette falls into the same category with wine, beer, shaving, wearing a bra (or purposely not wearing one), declaration of independence and striving for self-identity ... Thus, an attempt to reach young smokers, starters, should be based among others, on the following major parameters:
"Present the cigarette as one of the few initiations into the adult world. Present the cigarette as part of the illicit pleasure category of products and activities.
"In your ads create a situation taken from the day-to-day life of the young smoker but in an elegant manner have this situation touch on the basic symbols of the growing-up, maturity process. To the best of your ability (considering some legal constraints), relate the cigarette to pot, wine, beer, sex, etc."
Brown & Williamson said that it never implemented the company's recommendations and did not agree with its views.
"We rejected this illicit pleasure strategy. We didn't request any advertisement based on this strategy. No advertisements were ever published. It has nothing to do with our views," said Brendan Brady, a spokes-man for Brown & Williamson. "It was an outside agency. We eventually fired Ted Bates and Co".
A new law banning tobacco advertising in Britain is expected to be published next month.
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