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Politics for Fun and Profit

Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 07:17 PM

Rheingold Beer is trying to make a comeback in New York with an ad campaign that lays into Mayor Bloomberg. One spot targets the smoking ban, another the cabaret laws, and another the mayor’s alleged ticket blitz.

My somewhat sarcastic interview of Rheingold CEO Tom Benheim today generated complaints from smokers (and, to be fair, some non-smokers) that I was treating him differently from other guests, revealing my bias against the smoking law.

Truth is, I have long been and remain conflicted about the smoking law. I do buy the mayor’s argument that it’s a workers rights issue, and that no one should be put in the position of having to breathe carcinogens eight hours a night to make a living – or a better living. But I also think some compromise should be possible to accommodate smokers. How about ventilated rooms where smoking patrons can bring their food and drink but not be served? Or is that too much like a leper colony?

BUT: How cynical it is for a company to pass off a demographic marketing campaign as some kind of civic participation! Benheim even admitted in our interview that this should work for him as a business model because his target customers tend to be disproportionately smokers – 18-34 year old males.

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