Belfast Telegraph

Concert promoters in tobacco probe

Concert promoters MCD have been reported to health chiefs over the alleged promotion of cigarettes at a music event.

Anti-tobacco campaigners Ash Ireland claimed free cigarettes were handed out backstage at the Oxegen festival, with only one brand on sale to revellers during the three-day event.

Dr Angie Brown, of ASH Ireland, said complaints against MCD and a Temple Bar venue have been made to the Office of Tobacco Control and Health Minister Mary Harney.

"ASH Ireland is concerned that the tobacco industry will use every means possible, with the vast profits at their disposal, to bridge the gap in marketing created by the removal of tobacco advertising and promotion from retail outlets," cardiologist Dr Brown said, adding: "For each smoker who dies, the tobacco industry must recruit another young person and ensure this person becomes addicted."

Dr Brown said she had been informed hostesses in the VIP artists' reception area at Oxegen were presenting free cigarettes from trays to those present.

Oxegen promoters MCD insisted cigarettes were only distributed at the request of artists.

"No complimentary cigarettes were issued in any public area of Oxegen 2010, which is an over 17s event," said a spokesman. "Those issued within the bands' private dressing room area formed part of artists' rider. It is not illegal to sell cigarettes or to have only one brand available. It is not logistically possible to have a selection available."

Dr Brown also criticised the sale of a single brand of tobacco at Oxegen.

"This type of activity amounts to a massive promotion of one brand of cigarettes to a large young audience," she said. "The targeting of music festivals by the tobacco industry is of immense concern to all in the health lobby as this activity is specifically designed to increase sales and profit for the tobacco industry and a higher commercial return for the promoter, at the expense of our young people."

MCD said while its commercial arrangements are private and confidential no commercial agreement has ever involved the distribution of free cigarettes to the general public.

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