Australia: Campaigning Websites

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The internet is an integral part of lobbying and campaigning for tobacco companies today. Philip Morris (PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT) and Imperial Tobacco all use websites to emphasise their arguments.

PlainPack.com

BAT website. Screen grab from PlainPack.com

In March 2011, BAT launched a new website against plain packaging in Australia called PlainPack.com (see image to the left). It said:

"We are strongly opposed to the plain packaging of tobacco products. The possible consequences of plain tobacco packaging are very serious:

  • "Plain packaging means price becomes the most obvious distinguishing factor between brands. Competition could drive down prices, and consumption levels could increase as smokers switch to cheaper and/or counterfeit cigarettes.
  • "The plainer the pack, the easier it is to counterfeit, and criminals will profit at the expense of taxpayers and honest retailers. Illegal tobacco will continue to grow rapidly...
  • "We will defend the intellectual property within our packaging. If that requires us to take legal action, then we will do so.
  • "These unintended consequences may end up costing Australian taxpayers billions of dollars."[1]


NoNannyState.com

Nonannystate. Screen grab from NoNannyState.com

As part of a nationwide PR campaign based on the "No Nanny State" theme[2], Imperial set up a website called NoNannyState.com.au, no longer live (see image to the right), and made a video to encourage people to oppose the plain packaging legislation. It is part of a concerted effort to depict the government as interfering, set in the language used by right wing blogs in Australia, such as the Institute of Public Affairs:

"The argument for plain cigarette packaging is one of the most stark examples of how Nanny State regulations treat individuals as childish automatons." [3]


Plain-Packaging.com

Plain Packaging. Screen grab from now defunct www.plain-packaging.com

Philip Morris ran two separate campaign websites, one called www.plain-packaging.com (see image to the left) and another called www.ideservetobeheard.com.au. The former website is no longer live.

When live, Philip Morris used www.plain-packaging.com to summarise its arguments against plain packaging, namely that plain packaging would lead to a rise in illicit trade, that it breaches intellectual property rights and that there is, according to PM, a lack of evidence that plain packaging would reduce cigarette smoking. A large proportion of the website was devoted to the retail industry, detailing how plain packaging would cause confusion for consumers at the point of sale.


I Deserve to be Heard

"I deserve to be heard" Screengrab from IDeserveToBeHeard.com

The second website, I Deserve To Be Heard (see image to the right), is presented as "an online resource for Australian adult smokers".

It suggests that plain packaging is a slippery slope for more regulation: "Excessive tax increases on cigarettes, more smoking bans planned in outdoor areas, cigarettes not on display and now the latest idea is plain packaging for cigarettes - what's next?"

It encourages smokers to:

  • send a letter to your local MP
  • share your stories online
  • spread the word to others to get them involved too.[4]

Philip Morris publicised this website by inserting promotional cards into packets of cigarettes encouraging smokers to visit.[5]

Countering Industry Arguments Against Plain Packaging

For information on the evidence that counters these industry arguments, see:


TobaccoTactics Resources

TCRG Research

Notes

  1. BAT, Plain packaging website, accessed 20 June 2011
  2. Sydney Morning Herald, "Cigarette packaging war gets dirty", 14 June 2011
  3. Chris Berg,10 Worst Nanny State Policies, Institute of Public Affairs website, Accessed June
  4. Philip Morris website, I Deserve To Be Heard, accessed 20 June 2011
  5. Helen Davidson, 'Cheeky buggers: Big Tobacco aims to get smokers angry about taxes, bans', News.com.au, 1 April 2011, accessed 15 December 2011