December 14th, 2008

Smokes Alarm as Fashion Outlets Targeted

By Sam Kelton
Sunday Mail (Australia)

Cigarettes are being sold at high-end Adelaide clothing stores and at least one hair salon, in a “tricky and desperate” tactic to lure new young smokers.

A Sunday Mail investigation has discovered smoke company Imperial Tobacco is lavishing trendy stores with cash incentives and corporate entertainment in return for stocking Peter Stuyvesant brand cigarettes in specially designed cigarette dispensers.

They sell from $9.95 to $11.70 for a pack of 20 cigarettes.

The tobacco giant’s targeting of fashion-savvy outlets to push the trendy brand has prompted calls for a State Government crackdown to ban the practice.

Marketing kits distributed by the tobacco giant to fashion retailers describe cigarettes as being safe and fashionable: “It used to be extremely dangerous. Now the only danger is you’re not the coolest cat on the block.”

Quit SA and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon are appalled at the latest tobacco tactic, with Senator Xenophon saying “they’re doing it so they can associate themselves with fashion labels and fashion houses, but there’s nothing fashionable about emphysema”.

In the wake of the Sunday Mail investigation, SA Substance Abuse Minister Jane Lomax-Smith ordered a report into the laws on the sale of cigarettes through these outlets.

The investigation discovered:

CASH incentives of up to $2000 a year are offered to stores agreeing to sell cigarettes.

SMOKING is promoted as safe and cool in literature given to targeted fashion outlets.

FREE cigarettes are handed out to stockists.

BOOZY lunches and even a swish cruise have been held for businesses which sell the brand.

The Sunday Mail has confirmed at least six hip outlets – including Glenelg clothing store Zero, city boutique Whistles and CBD hair salon Gang – have started stocking the cigarettes, nicknamed “Stuyvies”.

Many others have been approached, some repeatedly, by Imperial Tobacco’s Adelaide representative in a push which started more than a year ago.

One storeowner who agreed to sell the cigarettes said the company’s marketing push was trying to position the soft-pack Peter Stuyvesant smokes as “the cool cigarette”.

“They (Imperial Tobacco) use fashion shows as their angle in,” said the retailer, who spoke to the Sunday Mail on condition of anonymity. “They pay you around $2000 (to sponsor) an event because they want to line themselves with cool brands and stores.”

The company’s next step was to ask a shop to stock the cigarettes in-store, the retailer said.

He revealed his business had received nearly $2000 in one year for carrying a cigarette display in his store and been treated to upmarket corporate hospitality.

Just two weeks ago the tobacco giant treated the retailer and many other Adelaide stockists to a marina boat cruise for more than two hours.

Guests were treated to canapes, cocktails, wine and beer, and invited to take home as many packets of Peter Stuyvesant as they wanted. “Everything was free,” the retailer said.

Another boutique owner, who declined to be named, revealed she had been offered $1000 a year to sell Peter Stuyvesant. As part of the deal she was asked to pay $215 for a licence with the money to be reimbursed in cartons of cigarettes.

The boutique would make at least $2.70 profit on each pack sold under the deal.

When contacted by the Sunday Mail, the manager of Whistles clothing store on Rundle St said the cigarettes were selling well.

He admitted the store received incentives for selling the deadly product but defended the decision to go ahead.

“We just have them there to be available for the customers,” said the manager, who only gave his name as Matt.

An employee of the hair salon Gang said the cigarettes had been on sale for six months.

The cigarette push into fashion boutiques has outraged the anti-smoking lobby and politicians.

Senator Nick Xenophon said the tobacco company was “tricky and desperate”.

He called on the State Government to toughen laws to stamp out the practice and the Federal Government to introduce blanket legislation.

“It’s like product placement in a movie,” Senator Xenophon said.

“The state needs to change the regulations and make it clear that the placement is unacceptable and they need a stricter anti-tobacco strategy. There ought to be uniform Commonwealth laws on this.

“Rather than picking on one state or another there should be a uniform national approach.”

In a one-sentence email statement, Dr Lomax-Smith said: “This is a matter of concern and we will ask for a report about the legislation around this matter.”

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon also slammed the fashion outlets who took up the offer.

“Over the last 60 years more than 900,000 Australians died prematurely because they smoked,” her spokesman, Mark Ward, said.

“This tactic by the tobacco industry is outrageous and shows poor judgment on the behalf of any fashion outlet that associates their prod-uct with something that has led to the deaths of so many Australians.”

Quit SA manager David Edwards said the tobacco industry was constantly developing new methods to target potential smokers.

“They’re extremely well-resourced,” he said.

“They’re constantly trying new ways to recruit new smokers and obviously having displays in these fashion outlets is a way of communicating with a younger audience.

“It’s also very typical in terms of the industry wanting to associate a product that kills with glamour and this high-end fashion.”

Imperial Tobacco refused to comment.

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