COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Anti-smoke lobby must 'attack' tobacco giants

Cancer and anti-smoking charities must start making bolder attacks on the tobacco industry instead of pouring all their efforts into targeting smokers' health, according to Cancer Research UK.

The charity is concerned that new youth-focused cigarettes, such as the recently-launched Shag brand, indicates that the commercial world still believes tobacco has expanding market potential.

Shag cigarettes, which carry the slogan "Have you had one lately?", launched with a publicity campaign at the beginning of this year.

"To date charities haven't really exerted their influence as campaigners against the industry," said Professor Gerard Hastings, director of Cancer Research UK's centre for tobacco control research.

"Even though newcomers like Shag won't have much of an impact compared to the well established brands, its emergence shows that the tobacco industry is still expanding and is largely unhindered by real opposition from campaigning or lobbying groups," he added.

Hastings said that charities should band together to develop policies that expose the business dealings of the big cigarette brands.

"We need to blow the cover of these companies who basically peddle death to their customers and show people what really goes on in their boardrooms," he said.

Hastings cited the success of www.tobaccopapers.com, the Cancer Research UK-endorsed website launched last December, which allows the public to access internal documents leaked from the large tobacco multinationals.

To date, some 80,000 documents, some including disparaging references to cigarette smokers as "slobs", have been downloaded.

Anti-smoking groups, including Ash, condemned the company behind Shag for handing out the cigarettes on university campuses and accused it of breaking the law by intentionally targeting children.

"Shag is just a blatant and brash version of what other cigarette brands are doing anyway," said Hastings.

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