Probe Sought Vs Philip Morris for ‘Organizing’ Eraserheads Concert


Devious.

That’s how tobacco control advocates today described the ploy of Philip Morris Incorporated (PMI) in sponsoring the upcoming Eraserheads Reunion Concert even as they call on the band to sacrifice for the sake of their multitude of non-smoking fans.

“Like millions of Filipinos, we want to watch the reunion concert. But when we look for ways to get the tickets, we are redirected to http://www.marlboro.ph. This is clearly tantamount to advertising,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin, executive director of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP).

Amid this, FCAP asked the Inter-Agency Committee-Tobacco (IAC-T) to immediately investigate the tobacco company’s “devious advertising tactics.”

Following Philip Morris’ denial of any violation of Republic Act (RA) 9211, Limpin wrote IAC-T to investigate the cigarette manufacturer for undermining the law’s provisions against advertising its brand and promoting cigarette smoking through the Eraserheads concert.

“Philip Morris sought to gloss over any likely illegality, which may arise from its sponsorship of the event by calling the reunion a promotional event not open to the general public but restricted to trade partners and adult smokers who have to ‘obtain’ an invitation by ‘registering’ in Marlboro’s website,” she said.

Philip Morris Philippines has denied it is violating the law by pointing out a difference in the definition of “sponsorship” and “promotion” under RA 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003. But FCAP described Philip Morris’ statement as “mere play of words, a marketing ploy that circumvents the law.”

RA 9211 prohibits “cigarette and tobacco companies from sponsoring any sport, concert, cultural or art event, as well as individual and team athletes, artists or performers where such sponsorship shall require or involve the advertisement or promotion of any cigarette or tobacco company, tobacco product or tobacco use.”

Philip Morris claims that it is not sponsoring the concert—by contributing a sum of money to a third party—but is organizing the event on its own as part of its promotional activity.

Limpin, however, pointed out that a violation of the ban on sponsorship occurs when: (1) the tobacco company sponsors, among others, any concert or performer; and (2) such sponsorship requires or involves the advertisement or promotion of any tobacco company, tobacco product or tobacco use, logo and trademark, among others.

Limpin said that even if Philip Morris does not give money to a third party to hold the concert, it is a fact that the event is closely tied to Marlboro, which constitutes an act of promoting and advertising the cigarette brand.

“Advertisement is likewise prevalent in the manner by which Philip Morris has aggressively used viral marketing to induce Eraserheads fans to register on its Marlboro website to obtain invitations to the event,” she noted.

Advertisement is defined under the law as “any visual and/or audible message disseminated to the public about or on a particular product that promote and give publicity by words, design, images or any other means through ….electronic … form of mass media.”

“The manner by which PMI has utilized the electronic media to stir interest and create hype about this event, lure both smokers and non-smokers alike to its website with the expectation of obtaining an invitation—thereby creating much publicity and getting electronic media mileage about Marlboro, its product name—is nothing but plain and simple, out-and-out advertisement,” Limpin said in her letter to I-ACT.

She said that even though the Marlboro website effectively limits the registration only to adults, these adult registrants are and will become part of the tobacco company’s database, easily accessible to its other forms of advertisements through the electronic media.

RA 9211 imposes a total ban on tobacco advertising in mass media, including through the Internet, starting July 1, 2008. The law defines advertising as “the business of conceptualizing, presenting, making available and communicating to the public, through any form of mass media, any fact, data or information about the attributes, features, quality or availability of consumer products, services or credit.”

“The act alone of making the concert accessible and free only to smokers, Philip Morris is actually promoting smoking,” Limpin said. “The concert is like a carrot at the end of the stick, the price for smoking,” she added.

To protect the health of Filipinos—young and old—FCAP is urging the IAC-T to convene, investigate and take the necessary action to ensure that the provisions of the Tobacco Regulatory Act are complied with.

The group also renewed its call for Eraserheads members to be good role models of Filipino youth and to disassociate themselves from a company that has done nothing but cause health problems to millions of people worldwide.

Meanwhile, Limpin dismissed speculations about FCAP’s “sudden hostility” toward Philip Morris.

She pointed out that FCAP has long been lobbying for tobacco control and its promotion by Philip Morris or any tobacco company. (30)(PinoyPress)

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