May. 22 1997
Washington, DC - The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today questioned the motives behind U.S. Tobacco’s (UST) decision to remove the Skoal brand name from advertising for a youth-oriented alternative rock tour, and repeated its call for cancellation of the concerts. Meanwhile, a band that UST has promoted as being part of the "Skoal Music ROAR Tour" says it refused to participate in the concert series because of the tobacco connection. "Instead of ending its effort to market smokeless tobacco to kids, U.S. Tobacco has made a cosmetic change that does nothing to protect children," said Bill Novelli, president, CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. "They will continue to sponsor these concerts, they will continue to market these concerts to youth, and they will continue to use these concerts to encourage kids to try smokeless tobacco." UST’s effort to mask its sponsorship of the ROAR Tour comes after the CAMPAIGN, as part of its April Tobacco Smoke Alarm, called on the tobacco company to cancel the Tour and on the participating bands to drop out of the Tour. UST subsequently announced it would remove the "Skoal" name from all Tour-related advertising and promotional materials produced in the future. "Removing the Skoal name from future advertising and promotional materials is little more than a public relations move, and it only makes this youth marketing effort that much more insidious. At the same time it is promoting the change, U.S. Tobacco is gearing up for a major advertising campaign in youth-oriented magazines and planning for a massive distribution of free Skoal at the rock concerts," Novelli continued. According to an article in the May 15 edition of the Connecticut newspaper Greenwich Time, Skoal samples will be given out to concert-goers, making it virtually impossible for the tobacco to be kept out of the hands of minors. In addition, UST is about to begin an advertising push in youth-oriented magazines such as Details and Rolling Stone. A further indicator that UST will be reaching youth through the Tour lies in the company’s own words. In a May 14 press release, UST admits that the Tour is at least in part meant to attract youth, saying that concerts appeal "primarily" to adults. "With 20 percent of U.S. high school boys in grades 9-12 current smokeless tobacco users, we must resist all efforts like this that target children for tobacco addiction," Novelli said. "The only acceptable course of action is for U.S. Tobacco to stop using the allure of rock music to market tobacco to kids. Taking the Skoal name off of Tour advertising is a meaningless gesture without also canceling the company’s Tour sponsorship." One band that UST has promoted as being part of the ROAR Tour line-up wants nothing to do with the tobacco company. Wales-based 60ft Dolls sent a letter to the CAMPAIGN saying they were surprised to find that their band was listed by UST in promotional material for the Tour, and that they are doing everything possible to get their name removed from all ROAR paraphernalia. In the letter, the band’s manager Natasha Hale, stated, "although 60ft Dolls could really do with a major tour we turned it down purely because of its involvement with tobacco...60ft Dolls already have two cigarette addicts in its own group and thus know what a disgusting unhealthy addictive habit it is and would never do anything to support it." A recent CAMPAIGN ad, headlined "Does U.S. Tobacco Lie About Marketing to Kids?" ran in the New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, New Haven Register, Hartford Courant, Greenwich Time and Roll Call newspapers. The ad illustrates UST’s almost 30-year history of targeting youth. From a 1968 UST meeting summary: "We must sell the use of tobacco in the mouth and appeal to young people. We hope to start a fad." The ad also includes a quote from a former UST sales representative, who, when commenting about the addition of candy flavoring to Skoal Long Cut, a "starter" product, said, "Cherry Skoal is for somebody who likes the taste of candy, if you know what I mean." "Starter" products are the first step on the so-called "graduation" process from beginner-strength to stronger smokeless products. The CAMPAIGN’s 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 may be reached by email at: TobaccoSmokeAlarm@TobaccoFreeKids.org or through its Internet site. 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.