Nov. 17 1997
Washington, DC - Four tobacco groups long known for luring kids into a lifetime of nicotine addiction are among the 13 sponsors of the Institute for Youth Development (IYD), a newly-formed organization that claims its goal is to "conduct research, promote messages, and devise programs targeted to American youth to avoid harmful risk behaviors," including alcohol, drugs, sex, tobacco and violence. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today sounded the November Tobacco Smoke Alarm on the Washington, DC-based IYD for accepting tobacco money and providing the tobacco industry with yet another opportunity to continue its 20-year history of designing and funding efforts which it claims are intended to combat tobacco use by youth but which, in fact, are designed to fail. The CAMPAIGN also called on the IYD to demonstrate its true commitment to kids by voluntarily agreeing to immediately disassociate itself from tobacco industry influence and funding. "It is hypocritical and downright appalling for RJR Nabisco, Philip Morris, US Tobacco and the Tobacco Institute, which collectively spend millions of dollars a day marketing tobacco products to kids, to help bankroll an organization purporting to fight youth tobacco use," said CAMPAIGN President Bill Novelli. "If the IYD is truly serious about ending the scourge of youth tobacco addiction, it must stop accepting funds from an industry which peddles its deadly products to kids." Novelli continued, "The tobacco industry has a long history of supporting anti-smoking efforts that are designed to serve as a smokescreen to conceal its agenda of attracting more teenage smokers. Even if these efforts were serious, they wouldn’t stand a chance of succeeding in the face of the $5 billion-dollar per year marketing campaigns that the industry hypocritically sponsors -- with most of these dollars influencing kids. Tobacco companies’ investment in educating kids about the hazards of tobacco is infinitesimal compared to their investment in youth-oriented advertising." For example, IYD sponsor the Tobacco Institute (TI), the industry’s trade association, has a history of funding youth smoking "prevention" programs. According to a May 23, 1996 Washington Post article, internal documents showed that in 1979, TI planned a "pre adult education" program. TI Executive Vice President Franklin Dryden said of the program, "It seems to me our objective is…a ‘media event’ which in itself promises a lot but produces little." Within two years, TI had created a tobacco education program entitled, "Responsible Living, Adult Decisions and Teenage Smoking." Throughout the history of all of the industry-funded youth education programs and organizations, none have ever reduced youth tobacco use. These programs have, however, served two purposes, both of which have a negative impact on youth tobacco use. They have provided a veneer of public responsibility to an industry that addicts 3,000 kids per day to tobacco, and they have served to undermine legitimate attempts to reduce youth tobacco use. IYD held its premier fundraising event in Washington, DC in late October. Nearly 100 Members of Congress lent their names as members of the event’s host committee (list attached). Today, the CAMPAIGN sent a letter to the IYD asking it to refrain from accepting further tobacco money; another letter was sent to the Members of Congress to make them aware of the CAMPAIGN’s call for an end to IYD’s tobacco industry funding (both attached). "These members of Congress, many of whom have strong anti-tobacco records, as well as IYD supporters and sports heroes like Brooks Robinson and Johnny Unitas, are probably completely unaware of the role of the tobacco industry in sponsoring this organization," Novelli said. "With smoking among high school seniors at a 17-year high, it is no surprise that one of the main messages of the tobacco-funded IYD is to minimize the problem of youth tobacco use. Our goal is to bring the tobacco industry’s long history of smokescreens and hypocrisy to light, and for the IYD to assert its independence from the industry, as well as its dedication to America’s kids, by rejecting the industry connection." Novelli concluded, "It is ironic that the very people who have been quoted as saying that the future of their business is in attracting younger and younger smokers are now sponsoring yet another youth prevention program. It is simply impossible to believe that the tobacco industry is at all serious about youth smoking when they continue to devise deceptive marketing campaigns aimed at kids. We hope the IYD does the right thing to remove the perception of any conflict of interest." The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS may be reached by email at: TobaccoSmokeAlarm@TobaccoFreeKids.org. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Its mandate is to focus the nation's attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children, and making tobacco less accessible to kids.