Tobacco Advertising in Asia

Fact sheet
22 May 2002

  • In Malaysia, tobacco companies have got around advertising restrictions by setting up companies offering other "products", such as Kent Tours, Peter Stuyvestant Travel and Marlboro clothing. The Benson & Hedges "smoke-friendly" bistro is designed in the same colours as the packet of the cigarette brand by the same name.
  • In China, Philip Morris sponsored giveaways where consumers traded in empty cigarette packs for rucksacks, lighters and other goods with the Marlboro logo. The company was caught mailing promotional materials to minors even though it claimed the giveaways were for adults.
  • In Kandy, Sri Lanka's second largest city, British American Tobacco (BAT) paid for the logo of its most popular brand to be painted on the front wall of a prestigious girls' high school and the scoreboard of a boys' school. BAT also hired young women to give free cigarettes and promotional items on college campuses, shopping malls and other venues for the young.
  • A disco in Beijing that was sponsored by the 555 brand had attractive young women hand out free cigarettes to people at the door while banners inside the smoke-filled room proudly proclaimed the 555 logo.
  • Similar discos sponsored by BAT could be found in Sri Lanka, where attractive young women gave free cigarettes and other promotional items such as key rings and shirts while a laser light wrote "Benson & Hedges" on the walls.
  • The Chinese national basketball league was previously named after a cigarette brand which sponsored it - Hilton. Last year, it was sponsored by Motorola.
  • In Malaysia, "Salem Cool Planet", has brought top stars such as The Corrs, Savage Garden and Deep Purple to the country to perform.
  • Tobacco companies have been keen to sponsor adventure races or other activities with an exciting, daring image. In Asia, there is the Camel Trophy, Marlboro Adventure, Benson & Hedges Golden Dreams and Mild Seven Outdoor Quest. The "Asia Marlboro" road-racing competition was featured prominently on Chinese television, allowing Philip Morris to circumvent Chinese law banning cigarette advertising..
  • In Thailand, Japan Tobacco introduced cigarette packs with pictures of Thai Buddhist shrines. Following protests at the Japanese Embassy, the photos quickly were withdrawn.
  • One study found that 10% of Sri Lankan children have an object with a cigarette brand logo.
  • In Malaysia, tobacco firms have sponsored movie ticket giveaways as well as television shows such as the "Dunhill Double" and "Perilleys 25" action films.
  • In Hong Kong, Salem sponsored tennis tournaments featuring teenage idol Michael Chang.
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