Mar. 12 2014
WASHINGTON, DC — A coalition of international public health organizations today called on Philip Morris International (PMI) to end a global marketing campaign for its best-selling Marlboro cigarettes that has been found by a German court to target youth and has generated similar complaints in other countries. The organizations issued a new report detailing how the "Be Marlboro" campaign, which has spread to more than 50 countries, uses themes and images that appeal to youth.
The report, titled "You're the Target," was issued by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Alliance for the Control of Tobacco Use Brazil, Corporate Accountability International, Framework Convention Alliance, InterAmerican Heart Foundation and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.
PMI’s global marketing campaign, launched in Germany in 2011, links smoking Marlboro with risk-taking, independence, exploration, rebellion against authority and freedom — all attributes that are highly attractive to youth — and delivers the message "Don’t Be a Maybe. Be Marlboro." It features images of attractive young people partying, falling in love, playing music and engaging in adventure sports such as snowboarding and surfing. The campaign tells young audiences that "Maybe never fell in love" or "A maybe is not invited" and they should define themselves by choosing to "Be Marlboro."
In October 2013, a German court banned the "Be Marlboro" campaign, finding that it encouraged children as young as 14 to smoke in violation of Germany's tobacco advertising law and that “the advertising specifically targets risk-taking, rebellious youths” (PMI has indicated it will challenge the ruling, but the court's ban remains in place). Complaints that the campaign targets youth and violates advertising regulations have also been filed in Brazil, Colombia and Switzerland.
The report calls on PMI to immediately end the "Be Marlboro" campaign. It also calls on governments to enact comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in accordance with the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Currently, 177 countries are party to the treaty.
PMI, the world's largest non-governmental tobacco company, is based in the United States.
Despite the findings of the German court, PMI continues to roll-out the "Be Marlboro" campaign globally, including in many low- and middle-income countries struggling with high smoking rates and related death and disease. These include Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.
"Philip Morris International claims it doesn’t market to kids, but the evidence in this report shows otherwise. Just like the Marlboro Man campaign, the new 'Be Marlboro' campaign uses themes and images that are sure to appeal to kids around the world and lure them into a deadly addiction," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the U.S.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We need urgent action to stop this campaign before it further fuels the global tobacco epidemic. If Philip Morris is serious about not marketing to kids, it should immediately end this campaign. Governments should also stop this campaign by enacting and enforcing comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship."
Other findings in the new report include:
Tobacco companies spend billions of dollars annually to promote their deadly tobacco products and have targeted low- and middle-income countries where 80 percent of the world's smokers live. Many of these countries have weak tobacco control laws, allowing tobacco companies to aggressively market their products and target children. Philip Morris International alone spent US $7 billion on marketing and related expenses in 2012.
Tobacco use — the world's leading cause of preventable death — kills nearly six million people worldwide each year and is projected to kill one billion people this century if current trends continue. Every day, 80,000 to 100,000 young people around the world become addicted to tobacco. Without urgent action by governments around the world, more than 250 million children and young people alive today will die from tobacco-related diseases.
View the report and related materials, including a slideshow of ads from the Be Marlboro campaign: http://tfk.org/yourethetarget
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