Where there’s no smoke there will be fire

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

The letter from TFWA to tobacco companies exhibiting at this year’s Cannes show was short and to the point. And it bears repeating in full.

Dear Exhibitor

May we remind you that French legislation imposes certain rules and restrictions regarding the distribution of tobacco products.

We wish to inform you that the Customs Office has advised TFWA that it is prepared exceptionally to allow a proportion (50 per cent) of the tobacco products destined for TFWA World Exhibition 2006 to be distributed to visitors as samples. The remaining stock (say 50 per cent) should be sent back to its origin or destroyed.

In addition you are reminded that all distribution of tobacco products (cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, loose tobacco) outside the stands of exhibitors is prohibited. TFWA urges the exhibitors from the tobacco sector to respect these rules.

Cannes, we have a problem. With no prior notice, the tobacco sector – a driving force of the global duty free business and of this show – has had stocks seized after a derogation (exemption) on the normal rules that apply to promotions and sampling of tobacco was removed without notice on Thursday under instruction from French government officials.

A stunned TFWA did well to strike a last-minute agreement with the City of Cannes to allow sampling in the show. But exhibitors still only have access to half of their supplies – their legally-imported duty paid supplies.

What is going on here? Here’s a category that generates 11% of the industry’s sales; one that has imported goods legally and on a duty paid basis to show and sample at the industry’s biggest exhibition; and one that therefore by implication is directly responsible for a significant slice of the huge revenues pouring into Cannes this year – thus in turn providing employment and numerous other benefits to the city.

Let’s remind ourselves of some key points. The new law on smoking comes into effect next January. The derogation was in effect when the tobacco companies signed up as exhibitors, committing time, money, resources, commitment – and stock – to the show and the city.

Why? Clearly the forces behind the scenes had a target. And they hit it. The traditional Cannes workshop on the WHO threat to duty free tobacco sales was cancelled this year to be replaced by one on security. Maybe it should be reconvened as one on the French threat to duty free exhibitions.

The Moodie Report does not believe that the tobacco sector should have to cower under any sort of second class status at trade shows. Without the support of the tobacco companies – big and small – trade shows will falter and so will the industry at large. Tobacco is a key driver not only of sales but also of footfall. Without it, as we saw in those grim post 1 July days of 1999, other categories suffer.

‘Brand the World’ reads the TFWA tagline at Cannes. As long as, it seems, your brand is not tobacco-related. TFWA and the tobacco category both have a right to be deeply angered.

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