Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Big Tobacco Sues Little Publisher

I decided not to mention the publication of these little books last summer when I first spotted an article about their release. There was just something that rubbed me the wrong way about books that seemed, at least at first glance, to glorify a product as horrible as cigarettes. I'm extremely anti-smoking, and have been so for decades, and I really hated to even mention an industry like "big tobacco" which, in my opinion, has no legitimate reason for even existing.

But the story is in the news again because, according to London's Guardian Online, big tobacco is now demanding via the court house that all the unsold Hemingway books (first in line in the above picture) be pulped because they too closely resemble real packages of Lucky Strike cigarettes and will "damage the health of the brand." Maybe the kind folks at British American Tobacco should be worrying more about the health of their customers than the health of the Lucky Strike brand...
Last summer, the small British publisher and design company Tank hit on the idea of producing a range of classic books packaged like cigarettes. Abridged works and short stories by Kafka and Conrad, Tolstoy and Kipling, Hemingway and Stevenson, which looked like packs of 20 cigarettes, were duly distributed through bookshops and the Design Museum.

The books, released as Tales to Take Your Breath Away at the start of the cigarette ban in pubs and restaurants last July, were well received by the design press and have made popular Christmas presents. But now the publishers are having to inhale deeply themselves as British American Tobacco (BAT) claims that one of the packs, containing Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Undefeated, resembles its own Lucky Strike pack.
...
Masoud Golsorkhi, co-founder and creative director of Tank, which is based in London, said: "I had been toying with the idea of using the cigarette packs for some time. When we heard about the smoking ban it seemed like it was now or never.

"I thought that producing a book that was small enough to be easily carried everywhere with you, like a packet of cigarettes, could be a good alternative - and the packaging made it fun."
...
TankBooks responded via its Brighton-based lawyers, Be., to BAT's claims by showing that a large number of cigarette brands have a circular motif similar to that of Lucky Strike. It says members of the public are unlikely to mistake a Hemingway novel for a packet of cigarettes.
My money is on the tobacco giant. History tells us that those guys are not bashful about distorting the truth and have the money and lawyers to do it well.

10 comments:

  1. From a marketing standpoint, I think this is a really good idea. I wish I had seen this before Christmas as I may have purchased some as gifts. I agree with the lawyer who said he doesn't think people will mistake these books for packs of cigarettes. How insane!You'd think they would like any positive publicity they could get at this point.

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  2. The "cigarette" books are a great idea! Plus, I'm with you on the anti-smoking front. I don't care if people want to kill themselves but don't pollute the air the rest of us have to breathe.

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  3. Ha! Just as I always suspected. Hemingway is destroying the health of the Lucky Strike's Brand. That's pretty hilarious considering Hemingway smoked.

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  4. As a marketing idea, Lisa, I have to agree...genius. They are really attractive little presentations and I wouldn't mind having one or two of them for my collection, even as anti-smoking as I am.

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  5. I hear you, Syndi. I could not care less what people do in the privacy of their own homes or vehicles...but I'm thrilled to see so many cities ban all smoking in public places. Sure makes for a more pleasant lifestyle for those of us who don't suck on those little paper tubes...

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  6. Yep, Carrie, Hemingway surely is thoughtless sometimes. :-)

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  7. Yes, wouldn't that be awful if the health of cigarette brands were destroyed. What a terrible shame! Yet not as terrible a shame as a "healthy" brand taking countless lives. < /bitter sarcasm >

    While I can't say I find this packaging of books to be very appealing, I could surely become a supporter if they were, indeed, damaging the health of cigarette brands.

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  8. They just don't get it, do they, Megan?

    I find them kind of appealing as a "curiosity." I like that kind of thing when it relates to books.

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  9. They are lovely little packages to hold, fitting in the palm of your hand. Not even the same size as a pack of cigarettes. And since nobody goes into bookshops (or some of the trendy clothes stores where you accessorise up with a Hemingway) looking for cigarettes then there shouldn't be a problem.

    I think the news story will sell the books and the case will be over. When you compare the two packs the Tank books have a huge red box along the base which Lucky Strike doesn't. One says cigarettes, the other doesn't. And I've never even seen Lucky Strike on sale in the UK anyway. Not to say they aren't, they may be, but they are in no way a brand that 99% of the population would recognise.

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  10. Good points, Stewart. I'd love to have the Hemingway one.

    I'm going to have to see if one of the U.K. booksellers on the net carries them.

    I do hope that the publicity of all of the stink being caused by the tobacco company (pun intended) sells a lot of books for the publisher.

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