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‘Spit or Swallow’ beer mats placed inside Leeds freshers’ room

The mats were placed inside welcome boxes for when freshers arrived at their halls

The University of Leeds has been criticised for allowing "spit or swallow" beer mats to be placed inside freshers' rooms as they arrived at their halls for the very first time.

The writing on the mat reads: "Whether you spit or swallow as part of your (twice…) daily oral regime, place your oral health on autopilot with Brushbox."

The beer mat, which has been labelled as "manipulative" and "sexist", was a promotional campaign from toothbrush subscription company Brushbox.

It was placed inside a welcome box from Dig-In, who provide welcome boxes for 80 per-cent of freshers across the country, including The University of Sussex, which has faced criticism for allowing the beer mat inside their welcome boxes.

The University of Leeds publicly apologised on Twitter after one fresher's parent, Lori Winters, called the boxes "NASTY" and "manipulative".

Another parent, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Tab: "The Dig-In box of fun promotional offers for freshers was waiting for my daughter on her desk in her room when we moved her into the residence hall. The card from Brushbox was bewildering and gross, degrading to women I thought".

She also raised concern about the message the mat was publicising, adding: "I wondered whether this was setting the tone for her experience at uni, if this was chosen to welcome her. Otherwise she was made very welcome that first day in halls."

A university spokesperson told The Leeds Tab: "The University of Leeds removed this offensive item from promotional boxes provided for new students by Dig-In as soon we became aware of the situation.

"Some may have been missed, and the item was in a small number of boxes in students' rooms – we apologise for any offence caused. We have informed Dig-In – which provides welcome boxes at universities across the country – that the inclusion of this item was unacceptable and that we will not permit the distribution of this type of promotional material in the future."

A Brushbox spokesperson has apologised for the product, telling The Leeds Tab: "We are really sorry if anyone has been offended by the promotional image used on the beer mat which was distributed to universities. We now realise it was inappropriate and misguided of us to use this type of image as a way to raise awareness of dental health issues.

“We completely understand that the image could be deemed as derogatory to women and for that we are truly sorry – this was never our intention, and we take full responsibility for any upset it has caused.

“Brushbox is a company which prides itself on its family and ethical ethos and we are very disappointed that something which was meant to encourage good health habits amongst students has caused any offence."

Dig-In told The Leeds Tab the beer mat does not reflect their high ethical standards, saying: "would like to apologise unreservedly for its part in distributing Brushbox’s promotional material. This insert, distributed in our freshers boxes does not in any way reflect our high ethical standards and we have put immediate measures in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again".