Mar. 13 1997
Washington, DC - The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today sounded the first round of Tobacco Smoke Alarms to warn the public of the manipulative schemes that the tobacco industry uses to target children and gain political leverage. Record-setting political contributions, a slick pop music youth marketing campaign, and a luxurious get-away for members of Congress all created the smoke that caused today’s alarms. "The Tobacco Smoke Alarm is aimed at exposing the tobacco industry’s efforts to sell more of its products to children directly through clever marketing – and indirectly through their efforts to buy political influence," said William D. Novelli, president of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. Today’s announcement at the National Press Club covered the 1996 Alarm, and the Alarms for January and February of 1997. "Every day 3,000 children become regular smokers, and one out of three will die from diseases related to their addiction," Novelli continued. "Yet in the face of public opposition and imminent Food and Drug Administration action to curb their marketing to children, the tobacco companies are working even harder to exploit the youth market." "Now more than ever, the public needs a watchdog to keep a sharp eye on the new tricks of the tobacco trade. Whenever and wherever we find the tobacco industry using questionable tactics to get more kids addicted to smoking, we’re going to sound the Tobacco Smoke Alarm and warn the public," Novelli added. 1996 Tobacco Smoke Alarm The Tobacco Smoke Alarm for 1996 sounded to warn Americans of tobacco’s all-out effort to buy influence in Congress through record-setting political contributions. According to a U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) study released at today’s event, in the 1996 election cycle, tobacco company PACs doled out a total of $8.67 million to political parties and national candidates on both sides of the aisle. This all-time high in tobacco industry giving represents a remarkable 85 percent increase over the 1994 election cycle, and a 70 percent increase over the 1992 presidential election cycle. Additional PIRG data follows. "The record-setting tobacco contributions for 1996 rang the full five-alarms," Congressman Martin T. Meehan (D-MA) said in announcing the Alarm. "There is a disturbing pattern at work here. The more the tobacco companies feel the heat of public opinion, the more money they pour into the political process to buy their way out of trouble." "Last year’s record-setting high in tobacco contributions came at a time when support for tobacco’s marketing schemes was hitting new lows," Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director for PIRG, stated. "With tobacco facing FDA action that will put the brakes on its marketing aimed at kids, we can expect that tobacco spending will continue to skyrocket." "We’re sounding the alarm today because in the coming year, the tobacco industry is going to spend more and more money to influence decision makers and extract political favors in Washington," Meehan concluded. January 1997 Tobacco Smoke Alarm The Tobacco Smoke Alarm for January 1997 sounded for Philip Morris’ unprecedented scheme to make its Virginia Slims brand even more appealing to young women. The company soon will begin marketing a pop music compact disc and sponsoring musical performances around the country. Called "Woman Thing Music," the effort features the music of a new female artist on a compact disc that will only be available with the purchase of two packs of Virginia Slims cigarettes. The Virginia Slims Alarm was sounded at today’s event by Leslie Nuchow, an aspiring singer and songwriter. Nuchow was a finalist in Philip Morris’ search to find talent for its Woman Thing Music program in New York City. She turned down the chance for a major career break after realizing it was little more than a ploy by the tobacco industry to sell more cigarettes to teenagers – especially females. "Like any young singer, I was dying to get the big break that would launch my career," Nuchow said today. "I wanted to take the opportunity for exposure that Philip Morris was offering, but not if it meant using me to sell cigarettes to young girls." "I am here today to tell the American people that Philip Morris’ real purpose is to get more young women hooked on smoking," Nuchow continued. "I’m going to keep making music for myself and for my fans, not for a tobacco company that wants to use me and other women artists to sell its products to girls." February 1997 Tobacco Smoke Alarm Today’s final Alarm sounded for the Tobacco Institute’s luxurious congressional junket to a desert resort in Scottsdale, Arizona this weekend. Mixed in with two days of golf, sun, swimming, and relaxation, are four hours of tobacco discussions -- making the junket a barely disguised circumvention of the new congressional rules banning gifts to members of Congress. "The Alarm needs to be sounded on the tobacco junket because most Americans probably believe that this sort of political coddling was a thing of the past," Meehan said. "The Tobacco Institute has thumbed its nose at new ethics rules with this luxurious get-away for lawmakers." "With $200 million in profit from the sale of tobacco to minors on the line, the tobacco lobbyists are sparing no expense to take care of their political allies," Meehan continued. "They’re going to need friends in Congress to help fight the Food and Drug Administration’s plan to stop tobacco marketing aimed at kids. The tobacco industry doesn’t have the support of the public, so they’re making sure they at least keep the support of key decision makers." The proposed Food and Drug Administration rule is a comprehensive initiative to reduce youth tobacco consumption by 50 percent over seven years through limiting kids’ access to tobacco, restricting tobacco industry marketing aimed at children, and requiring the industry to fund a public education campaign to prevent kids from smoking. After sounding the three Tobacco Smoke Alarms, Novelli announced that a new Alarm will be issued every month, and encouraged the public to take part. "We’re launching the Tobacco Smoke Alarms in order to keep the spotlight on the tobacco industry’s every move, and alert the public to their latest schemes," Novelli said. "I want to encourage everyone to help us hold the tobacco companies accountable. If you see or hear things that the industry is doing to encourage kids to start smoking, please let us know," 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. The CAMPAIGN’S 100-plus member organizations include the American Medical Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals and National PTA.