Tobacco firm 'regrets' giving Oxegen artists free cigarettes
One of the country's biggest cigarette companies yesterday said it regretted giving free cigarettes to bands performing at the Oxegen festival at the summer.
John Player said it had a commercial arrangement with MCD, promoters of the festival, and it had been asked to make cigarettes available to artists in their back stage dressing rooms -- a private area where products such as food and drink are usually available free of charge.
"We accept that this was wrong and should not have happened," the statement said. "It is not our policy to distribute free product to the general public. This was a genuine error and we will ensure it does not happen again."
Tobacco was available to adult fans at the event, but only at full price.
Earlier, a spokesman for MCD said the bands were offered complimentary cigarettes. However, he said this was not illegal and no members of the public were offered any free cigarettes.
MCD, which organises the festival, said yesterday it had no commercial agreement involving the distribution of free cigarettes to the public at the event.
The spokesman was responding to the anti-tobacco organisation ASH Ireland, which yesterday expressed concern at reports that free cigarettes were distributed at the festival and also in Dublin city centre.
Medical director Dr Angie Brown of ASH Ireland said: "We have been made aware in recent weeks of promotions being organised by the tobacco industry, which have included the availability of free cigarettes.
"At one such event employees of the hospitality industry, who were taken to an event at a Temple Bar venue, were each given a wrist band by the organisers (tobacco industry) and when this was presented to promotions staff, they were each given 20 free cigarettes.
"We were also informed that at the recent Oxegen festival, female hostesses, operating in the artists' reception area, were presenting free cigarettes from trays to all present."
She said ASH is concerned that the tobacco industry would 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.
"For each smoker who dies, the tobacco industry must recruit another young person and ensure this person becomes addicted.
"When this process occurs -- and it can occur very quickly because of the highly addictive nature of nicotine -- the tobacco industry has an addicted customer, probably for life.
"The fact that this person will most likely have serious health issues and die because of this addiction does not seem to create any real concerns for the highly profitable tobacco industry".
She called on the Government to take action -- and look again at the methodology and practice used by this industry in targeting young people.