May. 29 1997
Washington, DC - Tennis star Michael Chang is an international hero among young people, especially in Asian countries, but his image is quickly becoming tarnished by a cloud of tobacco smoke. Today, the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS sounded the May Tobacco Smoke Alarm on Chang and his promotional appearances on behalf of Salem and other tobacco brands. Michael Chang consistently plays in tournaments that are sponsored by tobacco companies, and in particular, by Salem, an RJ Reynolds brand. It has been reported that Chang is the only top player to enter the Salem sponsored Beijing Open since it began in 1993, and that in 1994, Chang received $200,000 just for playing in the Salem Tennis Open in Hong Kong -- six times as much as the winner’s purse. He has also played in Salem and Marlboro sponsored events in other Asian countries, and he is often featured in ads that promote these tobacco-supported events. "As a young, successful and likable tennis star, Michael Chang is a hero to children throughout the world, and especially in Asia," said Bill Novelli, president, CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, "He has earned his reputation as a young man with a strong character both on and off the court. Unfortunately, his good work and wonderful career are in danger of being lost in a cloud of tobacco smoke." Novelli continued, "U.S. Tobacco companies are using Chang’s role-model status to sell more cigarettes to young people, especially in Asian countries. We’re sounding the Tobacco Smoke Alarm on Chang to encourage him to refuse these tobacco marketing efforts, and to warn people that his youthful popularity is being used to get more children addicted to smoking." On the eve of World No-Tobacco Day, the CAMPAIGN today joined with the Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment and Leadership (APPEAL), in calling on Chang to stop taking part in tobacco marketing efforts. A letter signed by anti-tobacco advocates, including the CAMPAIGN, is being sent to Chang to make this request. APPEAL and other concerned organizations are also holding an event today in San Francisco to show how Asian American communities are being targeted by tobacco companies, and to discuss Chang’s involvement with the tobacco industry. "We want Michael to stop helping tobacco companies sell cigarettes to kids in Asia," said Rod Lew, project director for APPEAL. "Girls are a major target of U.S. tobacco companies and they’re using Michael’s popularity to legitimize their deadly product." "We know Michael Chang cares deeply about his young fans, and we’re appealing to him to end his association with cigarettes in order to protect the health of these impressionable kids," Novelli said. "By refusing to go along with tobacco promotional activities, Chang would become a role model not just for his superior tennis play, but also for his commitment to the health of the world’s children." Data from the World Health Organization show that smoking rates among teenagers are extremely high in Asian countries. Surveys show that in South Korea, 68 percent of male teenagers over 15 years old smoke daily, while in China the rate is 61 percent, in Indonesia the rate is 53 percent, and in Japan the rate is 59 percent. APPEAL is a national organization addressing tobacco control issues in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The Tobacco Smoke Alarm is sounded monthly and is aimed at exposing the tobacco industry’s efforts to sell more of its products to children directly through clever marketing – and indirectly through its efforts to buy political influence. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS can 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.