01 November 1999

AN UNPRECEDENTED public apology was issued by BT last month for supply-ing pagers to a Marlboro cigarette promotional cata-logue targeting the 18-25 age group. The apology coincided with an admission by Marlboro brand-owner, Philip Morris
, that there was 'overwhelming medical and scientific consensus' that smoking causes lung cancer and other serious diseases. Said BT: '[Supplying the pagers] was an error of judgement on our part for which we apologise - we have no wish to be involved in the promotion of spon-sorship of tobacco products.' The promo, via Tequila Option One, ended in October, and targeted clubbers who were offered a free pack of Marlboro in return for their existing brand. The pack was accompanied by a catalogue offering free goodies, including Lorus watches, a Sanyo CD player, a Nikon camera and clobber from fashion label White Stuff [a rag-trader of unimpeachable probity which would be horrified to learn that its brand name could accidentally imply to the young and impressionable an association with an illegal substance]. BT's stance was applauded by the World Health Organisation which believed it 'sent a very clear message to companies about the dangers of being involved in any promotional activity of any kind with the tobacco industry'. Phillip Morris was unrepentant, however, insisting that its promotion was legal and in accordance with industry codes of practice. A spokesman said the company was building market share in a highly competitive sector.