The tobacco company offered 100 holidays on the Coral Coast, Fiji’s most exclusive enclave, to IGA stores and other retailers to sell more cigarettes.
To be eligible, the shopkeepers had to sell at least 10,000 cigarettes between 11 April and 5 June – or lift sales by five per cent.
To win, retailers also had to promise never to run out of stock of BATA cigarettes. With pictures of sandy beaches, golf courses and exotic Fijian dancers, the BATA competition promises winners “guest speakers and industry experts from the world of retail, themed dinners, a range of great activities, five-star luxury accommodation plus opportunities to win other amazing prizes.”
The holiday was taking place from 22-25 July.
It is illegal for tobacco companies to advertise directly to consumers or run consumer competitions – but they can run promotions for retailers, in what anti-smoking groups say is a “loophole” that must be closed.
BATA are the makers of Winfield, Dunhill, Benson & Hedges, Pall Mall and Holiday cigarettes. Anti-smoking group Ash Australia described the promotion as exploitation of retailers by the tobacco industry. Ash chief Anne Jones said: “The retailers are being used as the front line for the tobacco industry. These are incentives for retailers to sell products that cause disease, and they should be banned.”
However, BATA spokesman Scott McIntyre said the promotion was legal. He added: “BATA values the relationships we have with our retailers – which is why we have organised a number of industry experts and guest speakers to engage with them about best-practice retailing, improving customer service and growing their business.
“The program applies to 100 of the 30,000 plus retailers in Australia.”
The Sunday Telegraph can also reveal rival tobacco giant Imperial has given retailers a “cheat sheet” on campaigning against the federal gov- ernment’s proposed plain-pack laws, due to be voted upon in August.
The Imperial Tobacco pamphlet urges retailers to claim they are afraid of the plain-pack laws being extended to other products.
“Next could be food and drink. Where will it stop?” the Imperial pamphlet asks in a series of pointers for retailers to include in their submissions to a House of Representatives committee presently considering the plain-pack laws.
“When sending your submission, you may choose to include views such as: There is no evidence anywhere in the world that plain packs will work (and) if cigarettes are not on display, plain packaging does not make sense and is bureaucracy gone mad,” the pamphlet said.
Imperial did not respond or comment on The Sunday Telegraph’s questions.