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Archive for August, 2013

Reports from the Asia Pacific Association for the Control of Tobacco #APACT2013 Conference

29 Aug, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor


Editor’s note: The first edition of the ASEAN Tobacco Control Atlas was launched to coincide with the conference. Click here to read additional reporting by SEATCA and download the report. Dr Marewa Glover from the University of Auckland Centre for Tobacco Control Research writes here about how e or m health ideas are an area that need more attention, and here about the importance of helping smokers quit to achieve Endgame goals.


E. Ulysses Dorotheo, MD, FPAO

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)

Framework Convention Alliance (FCA)

The Asia Pacific Association for the Control of Tobacco (APACT) marked a milestone with its 10th APACT Conference in Chiba, Japan last 18-21 August 2013, with a record 785 delegates from 42 nations participating.

In his David Yen Memorial Lecture, Mr. Kyoichi Miyazaki traced the conference’s history back to the visionary advocates who contributed to APACT’s establishment in 1989 and its early years of growth (particularly David Yen, Ted Chen, Judith Mackay, Prakit Vathesatogkit, Gregory Connolly, Richard Daynard, Terry Pechacek, Takeshi Hirayama, David Sweanor, Nigel Gray, Martin Kawano, and Kwan-Mo Chung, among others) in response to pressure to open the Asian markets to United States (US) tobacco companies wishing to invade the region.

Dr. Judith Mackay immediately followed up with a forward-looking plenary lecture on the tobacco endgame in line with the conference theme “Ending the Tobacco Epidemic – Protecting and Keeping Healthy Lives”, and over the next few days, best practices for measures to reduce tobacco consumption, such as optimal tobacco taxation, cost-effective cessation, and smoke-free policy advocacy, were discussed in plenary sessions, symposia, and poster presentations. Particular recognition was given to Australia for legislating the world’s first plain packaging of tobacco products, to Thailand for standing up to Big Tobacco’s intimidation by litigation for requiring the world’s largest (85%) pictorial health warnings, and to New Zealand for trendsetting a 2025 endgame target.

In contrast, the conference also recognized the varying degrees of tobacco control implementation in individual countries and underscored the need for full and accelerated FCTC implementation across our region in order to slow the tobacco death clock. Indonesia, for example, remains the only Asian country not a party to the FCTC, and conference host, Japan, still has no national law to protect the public from secondhand smoke. In this regard, delegates and speakers also shared experiences relating to the increasing incidence and overtness of tobacco industry interference in public policy (e.g. through their so-called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, litigation against effective tobacco regulation, and stakeholder engagement in international trade policies) and called on governments to immediately and fully implement FCTC Article 5.3 and its guidelines, to ban CSR activities by the industry, and to explicitly exclude tobacco products from international, regional, and bilateral trade and investment agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement currently being negotiated, noting that, except for the US, all TPP negotiators are Parties to the FCTC.

The 10th APACT further recognized the importance of the youth as future leaders who must be meaningfully engaged to realize the tobacco endgame in the Asia Pacific region, because just as in 1989, continuing collaboration is needed to overcome Big Tobacco, which relentlessly targets young people of Asia for its profits.

The next APACT Conference will be in 2016 in Qingdao, China.

An enormous set of lungs demonstrate in graphic detail the effect of smoking

An enormous set of lungs demonstrate in graphic detail the effect of smoking

I was a late 90’s cigarette girl

26 Aug, 13 | by Becky Freeman, Web Editor

We hope our readers enjoy this piece which offers an insiders view of what it was like to be a promo girl for big tobacco in the 1990’s. Granted this type of promotion is now largely banned in countries with advanced tobacco control measures, but it remains standard practice in nations soft on the tobacco industry. This blog is a bit different from the content we normally post, so please do let us know what you think.

Our guest writer is Alyce Vayle who blogs  at AlyceVayleAuthor and is journalist in residence at Open Colleges. This post was originally published by Mamamia and is re-posted here with full permission.


by Alyce Vayle

I am ashamed to admit to one of the worst jobs I ever held. I wasn’t a stripper, a garbo or a telemarketer. From 1998 to 2000, I was a professional cigarette girl.

A little over a decade ago, large cigarette companies employed young, good looking promotional staff, both men and women, to go to venues where other young people hung out, to promote cigarette brands to them.

We did this by offering club and pub goers discounts on cigarettes.  Knowing how sensitive this activity could be, we were heavily schooled on the terminology we could use. Back in 1998 we used to offer two packets for $12, and the buyer also received a cigarette lighter. We ‘ciggie girls’ were told not to use the words ‘free’, ‘discount’ or ‘bonus’ in association with the lighter, and if any club or pub patron asked us how much the lighter cost, we were to say that it was ‘included in the price of the packet.’

The teams would go out in groups of six or eight, overseen by the cigarette company’s promotions manager who would assign us into pairs. Paid about twenty bucks an hour each, we would be taken by cars to all the cool inner-city venues, spending about half an hour in each. Every girl had a tray of cigarettes and a cute uniform, and we would go around offering the cigarette ‘product’ for the purposes of ‘brand recognition’.

Shocking, I know.

Please remember that this was the late 90s and people could still smoke in clubs, even right at the bar. Diners could still light up in a restaurants and there were some flights that offered ‘smoking lounges’ in the air. I should mention at this point that I am a non-smoker, but I am tolerant of those who smoke; when I was growing up in the 80s it was a lot more common.

Today people might ask the question, why did the cigarette companies promote their brands in this way? Simply put, because they could. Plain packaging was still more than a decade off; packets were heavily branded, but because companies in the late 90s were still banned from print, TV and radio advertising, cigarette big wigs were trying to work out ways to get people to smoke their brand of cigarettes over the other brands.

These companies were faced with a conundrum, how could they promote something that they couldn’t advertise on TV or in magazines? The solution was clear; they had to promote their products at the ground level; by sponsoring popular events (such as the Formula One) and with live promotions at popular clubs and pubs.

That’s where the cigarette girls came in.

I first got into promotions at age 18. Fresh out of high school, I spotted a bunch of young women giving out copies of a men’s magazine on an inner-city street corner wearing branded T shirts. Wanting a free magazine, I asked for one and their manager suggested that I might be suitable to work in promotions myself. She told me that ideally you should be under 25, good looking, confident and able to commit to regular casual hours. It did not sound like hard work.

Many clients use promotions agencies, but by far majority of jobs came from alcohol and cigarette companies. It was good money for a young woman; sales assistant or cafe wages were comparatively lower and the weekend hours of promotions work allowed me to keep two jobs and start my university degree.

The downside of the work was the fact that I was being leered at and getting unwanted attention from drunk and disorderly people. As you can imagine, the outfits they put us in were skimpy, at best. The various cigarette brands called for different outfits (many Australians may not realise that the market here is dominated by two major players- Phillip Morris and British American Tobacco- which between them, house almost all the commonly known cigarette brands). One brand’s outfit was a gold miniskirt, a blonde wig and a gold crop top (which showed the wearer’s midriff) with a hole cut away to display cleavage. Another brand dressed us in black wigs, tight black miniskirts and red lipstick.

Screen shot 2013 08 01 at 8.17.02 PM I was a late 90s Cigarette Girl.

Alyce Vayle and a former co-worker.

The work was easy, and previous to doing it, I had never been immersed in the club scene. The job made me feel cool and impressive, and very grown-up.  As promotions staff, we were granted free entry into every nightclub and had access to VIP rooms and backstage areas. Some cigarette brands even employed dancing promotions girls, who would put on a ten minute dance routine while we worked the crowd with our trays of ‘cancer sticks’.

By early 2000 I was still doing promotions work, as I finished my degree. But the mood had changed. The culture around cigarettes was shifting quickly. New laws were being created and from 1999 the Australian government began the National Tobacco Strategy, releasing a report recommending further smoking bans in May 2001. Feelings about being exposed to others’ passive cigarette smoke were growing fast.

I had relocated to Queensland by then and I was now working for a different promotions company, for a ‘lower-price-point’ brand. This time, we went out during the day, taking our trays of ciggies to the pubs of the Gold Coast and Brisbane, watching as the bored kids ran circles around their pokie-playing parents at 2pm in the afternoon.

I’ll never forget the first time we were called ‘the cancer brigade’.

We were walking down the street and a man yelled out the words to our group of five (two pairs of girls and a manager) and started to approach us. Our manager thankfully dealt with the situation but after that, we were told to cover our trays with our jackets when we walked down the street. We were also told to cover the logos on our T shirts.

For the first time, I started to question what I was doing. Up until that point I hadn’t really thought about it too much. But I should have. Every cigarette boy or girl who worked with the two big brands had to do awareness training. This usually involved a day or two of workshops and seminars. We had these ideas heavily enforced throughout our training. The companies stressed that we were not promoting cigarettes to young people, we were not encouraging people to smoke, we were not prompting the habit, just the brand.

Cigarettes are legal in Australia, we all know that, so if a product is legal, why shouldn’t it be marketed? It’s fair to say that the world feels differently about cigarettes now. In a landmark move, smoking was recently banned in US prisons, with some in NSW following suit. In October 2012, Australia’s High Court ruled on a 6:1 decision backing plain packaging legislation against constitutional challenge by tobacco companies.

Cigarettes are no longer promoted with ciggie girls and boys in Australia. Part of the fuss was that these promotions were seen to be targeting young people. A government report says, “Exposure to promotions reaches young adults, and their influence can also be expected to trickle down to younger adolescents, who are keen to emulate adult behaviour.”

The government now claims that it has put effort into state-level attempts to control these activities, saying that most states have banned mobile cigarette girls and boys but there have been recent examples of sneaky cigarette promotions, including sponsored ‘smoking lounges’ at the Big Day Out and reports of free packets of cigarettes given out to guests at a fashion industry charity party at the Sydney Opera House, as late as 2007.

There are other claims that promotional staff working for cigarette companies at events like these encouraged participants to sign up to an email database. The government believed that this was to facilitate publicity about future events, where these potential customers could be further promoted to. Does a big ciggie company have your mobile number? Are you sure? How long will the legacy of cigarette promotions last, another generation? Two?

The landscape has changed in Australia and cigarette companies are no longer able to promote with the same methods but with the ever-increasingly narrow ways they have to market one brand from another, rest assured that while there is still money to be made from cigarettes, the big companies will find ways to promote themselves to new and old markets.

It’s still a legal business, after all.

Thai youth ask the tobacco industry to withdraw lawsuit against new pictorial health warnings

1 Aug, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Update: On 1 August, 140 youth and students held a protest rally at the World Trade Centre in Bangkok, location of the Philip Morris International offices, to show support for 85% pictorial warnings, and to symbolise “140 deaths from tobacco use every day” in the country.

View a video of the rally here:

youth rally bkk5

Open letter

1 August 2013

To:  Manager of Philip Morris International (Thailand) Limited and Manager of Japan Tobacco International (Thailand) Limited

Subject:  Request to withdraw the lawsuit against Ministry of Public Health on the regulation requiring 85% pictorial health warning on cigarette packages

Due to the lawsuit filed by your company against Ministry of Public Health Thailand on the case of 85% pictorial health warning on cigarette packages regulation at the Administrative Court, we, Youth Network in Thailand, would like to request you to withdraw this current lawsuit against Ministry of Public Health Thailand.

We are well aware that you have great concern of decreased cigarette sales volume as a result of 85% pictorial health warning regulation. This is because the new warning will provide clearer facts to consumers. In particular, it will raise awareness on Thai children and youth, who are your targets, not to initiate smoking. You should be fully aware that in 2011, there are already 2,200,000 Thai children and youth who are your current customers, not to include 10 million of adult customers. Your company will continue to gain major profit from them in many decades.

You may need to ask yourself whether your effort to avoid compliance to Thai domestic law by filing the lawsuit against Ministry of Public Health, in order to increase sales volume of your products by attracting more children and youth to become your customers in the replacement of those who already died or in illness, is ethical practice.

We believe that you have enough expertise to initiate other business that benefits children and youth development including your own children. Youth always welcome new innovation but not for cigarettes that kill its consumers.

On behalf of the youth network, we would like to request you to withdraw the lawsuit against Ministry of Public Health Thailand on the case of 85% pictorial health warning on cigarette packages regulation, and request you to comply with the Tobacco Control Law of Thailand.

Yours Sincerely,

Mr.Chatchawan Monthatipkul

On behalf of the organizations as below:

Pak Dee Gang youth network,

Youth Network of Bangkok,

Youth Council of Satorn, Bangrak, Rajathevi, Watana, South Bangkok

Pharmacy Students ‘Union of Thailand,

Ya Mo Student in Public Health

Public Health and Health Sciences Students Association of Thailand,

Public health student, Network of Health Education and Behavioral Sciences Faculty Public Health Mahidol University,

Young Filmmakers of Thailand, Fongnom FILMS,

Network of Non Smoking generation /Teachers Networking for Smoke-Free Schools

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