21 February 2020
Yesterday, (20 Feb), Japan Tobacco International Singapore (JTI) pleaded guilty to three offence under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act 1993 for supplying cigarettes at Ultra Singapore 2016 music event.
The company was fined S$15,000 in total. The court stated that it took into account, five other similar charges against the company when sentencing.
In 2006, prior to the music festival at Ultra, Mark Lim, a producer of Pico Art International, reached out to JTI’s trade marketing manager to discuss a possible sponsorship. The three parties worked together despite Ultra’s initial suspicion in regards to the deal.
Prakash Otharam, a prosecutor for the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) explained in court that, “Ultra suspected that there might be issues pertaining to the legality of the collaboration with JTI, but took the position that they were agreeable to the working collaboration so long as JTI ensured that the working collaboration was legal.”
“In spite of its suspicion, Ultra nonetheless agreed to the collaboration with JTI.”
The tripartite had a mutual agreement that Ultra would initially receive S$20,000 as part of their sponsorship arrangement.
Additionally, Ultra would also receive a performance-based incentive from JTI, based on the number of cigarettes that were purchased at the music festival.
Meanwhile, Pico Art conspired to assist JTI in recruiting part-time workers to operate the booths. There were advertisements displayed at the booths for the prices of different cigarette brands, namely Winston, Camel, Mevius and LD.
However, the Central Narcotics Bureau banned festival-goers from taking in open containers such as cigarette packets as stipulated by the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act 1993. To circumvent this, smokers would have to purchase cigarettes from JTI if they decide to smoke during the musical event.
As festival-goers placed orders for the cigarettes, the part-timers worked at both the booths would convey the orders to their colleagues stationed at the nearby 7-Eleven convenience store at Bayfront MRT Station to purchase the cigarettes.
The part-time recruits would then leave the festival grounds to collect and distribute them to the respective buyers.
Given the demand for cigarettes during the music festival, JTI had then resorted to purchase the advertised cigarette brands in bulk from the 7-Eleven store and had them stocked at the booths.
In a span of the two-day musical event, approximately 1,300 to 1,600 packets of cigarette were sold.
In 2018, a spokesperson from HSA issued a notice to JTI alleging that the company went against certain sections of the tobacco control regulations at the 2016 event.
To note, the distribution of any tobacco product in Singapore without a valid licence is deemed illegal. As such, advertisements and promotions relating to tobacco products are also prohibited under the law.
According to Singapore law, the legal age for smoking is above 18. Only those in this age category are allowed to enter the music festival grounds. However, now the minimum legal age for smoking has been revised to 20. This is part of the Government’s progressive plan to raise the minimum legal age to 21 over a period of three years.