The sponsoring contract between Wallonia’s Royal Opera and a Japanese tobacco firm is illegal, Health Minister Maggie De Block’s cabinet said on Monday. The news was first reported by French-language daily Le Soir, after activist group Fossil Free Culture flagged that Japan Tobacco International —who manages non-US sales for brands like Camel and Winston— appeared on the opera’s list of sponsors.
Belgian consumer protection laws prohibit advertising or sponsoring by any companies that manufacture or work with tobacco.
De Block’s cabinet said in a press release that they had reported the issue to SPF Santé, the federal public health authority.
“As we would with any offence of this type, we have charged the SPF Santé’s inspections services to investigate the matter and take the appropriate measures,” De Block’s cabinet said in a statement.
Wallonia’s minister of public health, Alda Greoli, said that aside from being illegal, the opera’s choice of sponsor posed ethical concerns.
“I am stunned by this choice and I appeal to the ethical responsibilities of the opera’s administrators,” she said, adding that the choice of a sponsor was free, but that the law and ethical principles should be respected.
According to Le Soir, over 100,000 people attended the Liege-based opera house, out of which 26,770 were young people, a key demographic for tobacco manufacturers.