Cigarettes on the internet: a new frontier for Big Tobacco

Monday 10 December 2001

ASH release: Embargo 00:01 Monday 10th December 2001


Cigarettes on the internet: a new frontier for Big Tobacco


New studies published today in the BMJ specialist journal Tobacco Control [1] argue that the internet is becoming the next frontier for tobacco marketing – a virtual place where tobacco companies can escape real taxes that discourage smoking and real regulations that prevent sales to young people.


Clive Bates, Director of ASH – Action on Smoking and Health said:


“One great strength of the internet is that it is free and stateless.  The problem is that when that is used to sell cigarettes, people are going to die.  ”


“The internet is a new frontier for tobacco companies, they want to be in there selling and promoting the product and it’s the easiest way they can get straight into the bedroom of a teenager.


“The government banned advertising of cigarettes on television in 1965” said Bates “what’s so special about the internet that we can’t have tobacco advertising and sales banned on the web?”


But ASH also cautioned would-be purchasers of cigarettes on the internet. Earlier this year ASH conducted test purchases on the internet and found that it was a rip-off [2].


Clive Bates said:


“Most of the sites simply didn’t send any product at all, though they walked away with our credit card details.  For most of the rest, the Post Office just charged us the full duty and the cigarettes worked out much more expensive than the shop round the corner from our office.


“It’s basically a mugs’ game, at least for now. But who knows how it will evolve in the future?  Governments should act now to nip this in the bud, but ministers are so bewitched by e-commerce that they are unlikely to lift a finger to do anything about this until it has become a crisis.”


ASH also highlighted a covert internet site run by British American Tobacco –  .  The site does not disclose any link to the tobacco company or smoking, but promotes venues such as cafes, bars and clubs.  These venues all have heavy BAT promotions for brands like Lucky Strike and 555.  ASH has responded with a counter site


[1] Tobacco Control 2001;10:364-367 (Winter) Tobacco commerce on the internet: a threat tocomprehensive tobacco control Available at


[2] See ASH report and press release


Contact: Sunday 9th Monday / 10th December

Clive Bates: 077 6879 1237 (mobile) 020 7739 5902 (office) ISDN available