Smoke Spots adverts slammed by Scottish health campaigners
HEALTH campaigners and politicians have condemned an Imperial Tobacco promotional campaign that encourages tobacco users to share their favourite place to smoke over social media.
The Smoke Spots website and app allows smokers to rate and review their preferred venues to light up at.
Posters promoting the site, which do not feature the Imperial Tobacco brand name, were recently seen in Glasgow bus shelters.
Green MSP Patrick Harvie described the campaign as a tobacco industry “wheeze” and has now submitted questions to The Scottish Government asking if it is aware of the campaign and whether it breaches the Tobacco Advertising and Promotions Act 2002.
Mr Harvie said: “The campaign website suggests that the tobacco industry sees no problem in encouraging people to smoke at the same time as promoting public parks, food markets and even events for children.”
Health charity ASH Scotland called the campaign “dishonest and self-serving” and plan to lodge a formal complaint with Trading Standards.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said: “They reach out to hook people through social media and social gatherings as a distraction from the reality of a product that kills half its long term consumers when used just as intended.
“In trying to build these online communities we see the same old tobacco industry pursuing its one overriding concern – getting smokers to keep spending money on the products that kill them.”
Labour MSP Richard Simpson, deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on tobacco control, added to the criticism: “Whilst this is not advertising a specific tobacco product, it is highly questionable and is promoting smoking. I believe it should be banned.”
Dr Suzan Burton, who has produced research on Smoke Spots for BMJ Tobacco Control, described the adverts as “irresponsible and unethical” and raised concerns it may contravene World Health Organisation rules prohibiting the promotion of tobacco products.
She said: “Smoke Spots is particularly bad because it promotes smoking in pubs and other licensed premises, and we know that those are the sorts of location where people who are trying to quit smoking face the greatest difficulty.”
A promotional release describes the site as “the number one service site for smokers in the UK”.
An Imperial Tobacco spokesperson denied Smoke Spots promotes smoking: “As stated on the Smoke Spots website, it helps adult smokers find places where they can still enjoy a legal consumer product. It does not advocate smoking or advertise tobacco brands.”
JCDecaux, the company responsible for advertising in the affected bus shelters, refused to comment.