Although the City of Johannesburg's emergency services has assured drivers there is nothing to worry about when they see this burning billboard, there is indeed something to worry about.
This burning billboard‚ part of a campaign by British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA), purports to raise awareness about the illicit trade of cigarettes. The National Council Against Smoking regards this as opportunistic advertising. In the light of laws preventing advertising by cigarette companies, any promotion of cigarettes is illegal and we question if this billboard is about preventing illicit trade or promoting BATSA. With 44 000 South Africans dying a year from smoking, we need to ask ourselves who is supplying these illegal cigarettes?
In addition, with the desperate poverty faced by over 50% of South Africans as released by Stats SA yesterday, to use poverty to promote a product is extremely distasteful. No mention is made in this advertisement of the cost to the health of smokers and to the health burden carried by society from smoking. This leaves a bad taste in our mouths.