No Smoke Without Fire

Irish promoter Denis Desmond must be used to being the target of national newspaper stories, but the latest example has to be the first time he’s come under fire for actually giving something away.

MCD, his Irish promoting company, has been reported to health chiefs over the alleged promotion of cigarettes at this year’s Oxegen Festival, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Anti-tobacco campaigners Ash Ireland are getting hot under the collar because free cigarettes were handed out in the backstage area. It’s complained to Irish 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,” ASH spokeswoman Dr. Angie Brown explained. “For each smoker who dies, the tobacco industry must recruit another young person and ensure this person becomes addicted.”

Brown has also criticised the event for selling only one brand of cigarette and claims it amounted to “a massive promotion of one brand of cigarettes to a large young audience.”

She said the tobacco industry’s targeting of music festivals is of immense concern to everyone in the health lobby, as it’s specifically designed to increase sales and profit for the tobacco industry and a yield a higher commercial return for the promoter.

She said she was told that hostesses in the VIP artists’ reception area at Oxegen were handing out free cigarettes.

MCD says there were no free cigarettes in any area that could be accessed by the public and the ones handed out backstage were part of the artists’ riders.

“It is not illegal to sell cigarettes or to have only one brand available. It is not logistically possible to have a selection available,” an MCD spokesman told the Telegraph.

He said while MCD’s commercial arrangements remain private and confidential, it has never entered into any commercial agreement involving the distribution of free cigarettes to the general public.