Obscure Box

Thoughts from inside the obscure box

July 16, 2008

Pass me the smoking gun

Posted by : Michael Lund
Filed under : Media, Observation, Online

So the Australian airline Qantas is to restart selling duty free cigarettes on flights almost 10 years after quitting the habit.

Reports out today, including "Qantas brings back inflight cigarettes" (Wednesday 16 July 2008) at news.com.au and "Qantas cigarette sale move slammed" (Wednesday 16 July 2008) in The Age, say staff are being encouraged to wheel out the duty free trolleys in economy class "with the cigarettes displayed prominently on top".

The airline says it's simply responding to consumer demand but the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health sees it as a return to the "bad old days".

Anne Jones, CEO of ASH, says in a statement "QANTAS orders crews to push tobacco" that Qantas staff are far from happy.

"We've received several complaints from QANTAS staff who are concerned not only about the increased risks of smoking in toilets, but that they have to push tobacco as part of their job."

Quit's executive director Fiona Sharkie says the move by Qantas is a "greedy cash grab".

"International flights are an opportunity for smokers to give up smoking, but having cheap cigarettes promoted to them by Qantas in-flight completely undermines this opportunity," Ms Sharkie said.

"Perhaps the flying kangaroo should be renamed the cancer kangaroo, such is their insistence on the in-flight sale and display of a product that will ultimately kill more than half of long-term users."


At a time when cigarettes are fast disappearing from shelves it does seem an odd move for an airline, even with rising fuel prices taking their toll on the industry.

But then another report out today, "Retired tobacco peddler joins Qantas board" (Wednesday 16 July 2008), by Aviation Record makes interesting reading.

Chairman Leigh Clifford announced today the appointment of Paul Rayner as a non-executive director of the Qantas board.

Who is Paul Rayner, I hear you ask.

The report goes on.

Rayner has spent the last 17 years in senior management roles with tobacco companies, most recently as finance director of British American Tobacco plc. Prior to that he was chief operating officer of British American Tobacco Australasia Ltd.

Which makes him perfectly qualified for a job with an airline. Or does it, asks the Aviation Record report.

But there was no reference to any airline or aviation experience in the media statement announcing his appointment. As it is illegal to market or advertise tobacco products in Australasia, it is unlikely Rayner has any knowledge or skills in marketing either.

See for yourself as further details on Rayner are available on the airline's media statement on the "Qantas Board Appointment".

New Qantas board member a former tobacco boss, new cigarette sales on Qantas flights. Pure coincidence I'm sure.

PS - Thanks to The Australian's report "Qantas denies tobacco link" for clearing things up.

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All thoughts and comments here are the honestly held personal opinion of Michael Lund and are based on the information available at the time of publication.