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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 December, 2003, 21:30 GMT
Tobacco giants deny 'slobs' slur
Woman smoking in shop
26% of women in the UK are smokers
UK tobacco firms have denied treating their customers with contempt following the publication of derogatory memos written by their advertising agencies.

Memos drawn up by advertisers working for Imperial and Gallaher described some customers as 'slobs' incapable of understanding 'clever' adverts.

The companies said the documents did not reflect their own view of their customers.

"These were internal agency documents," said a Gallaher spokesman.

"They do not express the views of Gallaher. It is outrageous to suggest that they do."

A spokesman for Imperial Tobacco said the firm did not take a "derogatory" view of its customers.

'Down market'

The memos were among 14,000 documents supplied to MPs conducting an investigation into the tobacco industry in 1999, and published on the internet this week.

The memos were produced by well-resourced, intelligent people sitting around working out ways to push tobacco
Gerard Hastings, University of Strathclyde
One, from the M&C Saatchi agency, described the target customers for Gallaher's cut-price Sullivan & Powell brand as "pretty down market."

"Anything vaguely clever will go over their heads. The advertising needs to be kept fairly 'easy'," it said.

In a study by RMC Associates into consumer perceptions of Imperial's cigarette brands, Nottingham women taking part in a focus group were described as "rough, unfocused, insecure, brazen, inarticulate."

And an analysis of young people's attitudes to smoking, prepared for Gallaher by researchers Market Trends, categorised some smokers as "slobs."

Market Trends said the term "may seem unkind, but this title is particularly earnt by their low concern with their appearance and the little effort they make to keep themselves informed."

Advert blackout

The memos formed the basis of a Health Select Committee probe into the tobacco industry four years ago, and were published this week on a website, tobaccopapers.com, run by Cancer Research UK and funded by NHS Scotland.

The Select Committee's conclusions reinforced the case for the total ban on tobacco advertising which was introduced in February this year.

Gerard Hastings of the University of Strathclyde, who analysed the memos on behalf of the Committee, said they illustrated the "cynicism" of the tobacco industry.

"The memos were produced by well-resourced, intelligent people sitting around working out ways to push tobacco," he said.

Dr Hastings added that the advertising ban had not prevented tobacco firms from promoting their products through packaging and prominent displays in newsagents.

"We need to think hard about whether they should be allowed to communicate with their customers in any way," he said.

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