Internal tobacco industry documents have emerged outlining cigarette displays in the retail environment as the key to maximising sales of tobacco products and communicating with smokers.
An article, appearing in the Tobacco Control journal, also reveals that material prepared for the tobacco retailing industry in Australia confirms that bans on the display of tobacco products are likely to reduce tobacco sales.
Executive Director of Quit and article author, Mr Todd Harper, said the tobacco industry has long been aware of the importance of point-of-sale positioning for cigarettes, and has been working closely with retailer associations to create displays to maximise sales.
"It appears that British American Tobacco has established relationships with retailers to oppose bans on point of sale marketing."
"The peak retailer group in Australia, the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), is sponsored by British American Tobacco and a British American Tobacco representative was appointed to the AACS Board in December 2005."
"Six of Australia's ten biggest selling brands for all products are cigarettes, so there is no doubting that the economic interests of the tobacco industry and their retail agents are convergent," said Mr Harper.
Mr Harper pointed out that the AACS is a member of the advocacy group National Association of Tobacco Retailers (NATR), who have been actively urging its retail members to oppose banning the display of tobacco products, warning them: "A display ban will damage your business. A display ban will harm your tobacco sales."
"These internal documents reveal that tobacco industry and retail groups are aware that banning tobacco displays at the point-of sale will mean a reduction in tobacco sales and although this has tremendous benefits to the health of the community they are still actively resisting the move."
"It is a sad case of big business putting potential profits ahead of the health and well-being of the public."
The article quotes documents from Service Station Australia Limited (a national industry organisation representing fuel retail outlets) advising retailers to:
â€¢ Strategically place cigarette dispenser, ideally behind the point of sale unit in full view of customers.
â€¢ Enlist the support of the cigarette manufacturers, when placing an order request a visit from a sales representative, they are â€˜experts', and if you ask the right questions they can provide very useful advice.
These new documents reflect tobacco giant Phillip Morris' documents stating, "â€¦ the primary point of communication between ourselves and our consumers will be inside a retail outlet. In-store POS material, discounted stock units, on-pack premium offers, strategically located stock displays in-store (as well as in windows and showcases), need to be dominated by PML"
Mr Harper said that as restrictions on more traditional forms of marketing are tightened, point-of-sale tobacco displays in stores have become the cornerstone of tobacco industry promotion.
"The powerwalls of cigarette displays at point-of-sale are an essential avenue for tobacco companies to target new customers and communicate brand imagery."
"The way the tobacco industry encourages marketing through point-of-sale is particularly offensive considering these tobacco powerwalls are usually placed near items like confectionary and novelties, purchased mostly by children."
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