Sep. 17 1999
Washington, DC - The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS (CAMPAIGN) and the American Medical Women’s Association, Inc. (AMWA) are profoundly disappointed by the decision of Billie Jean King to accept a position on the Board of Directors of the Philip Morris Companies, Inc. We urge her to reconsider. By accepting this appointment, Ms. King has chosen to associate herself with the largest tobacco company in the world, the world’s largest seller of tobacco products to women and children, and the dangerously deceptive and misleading image that tobacco use and world class tennis are compatible.
Today, lung cancer kills far more women than any other form of cancer including breast cancer. Heart disease, the number one killer of women, is caused by smoking.
While Ms. King may be expressing loyalty to Philip Morris for its financial support of women’s professional tennis, she should consider the enormous toll that Philip Morris’ tobacco products have taken on women all over the world. Although Philip Morris’ sponsorship of the Virginia Slims Tour aided women’s tennis, the advertising and marketing that went with it contributed to enormous increases in smoking initiation rates among young girls and women. Research shows that six years after the introduction of Virginia Slims and other women-oriented brands, the rate of smoking initiation of 12-year-old girls had increased by 110 percent. Increases among other teenage girls were also substantial. (Pierce J.P., et al., “Smoking Initiation by Adolescent Girls, 1944 Through 1988: An Association with Targeted Advertising,” Journal of the American Medical Association, February 23, 1994, vol. 271, no. 8.)
Through its “Dueling Divas” music competitions and Virginia Slims “V Wear” clothing line, Philip Morris still targets young women with direct brand promotions portraying smoking as something exciting and fun to do. During the 1990’s, smoking rates for girls and young women have skyrocketed, and Philip Morris is responsible for a major portion of this increase. Marlboro is by far the leading brand of choice among girl smokers: 55.4 percent of 8th grade girls, 64.1 percent of 10th grade girls, and 66.2 percent of 12th grade girls claim they smoke Philip Morris’ flagship brand. (University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research, the Monitoring the Future Study, 1998.)
Billie Jean King is greatly admired for her leadership in the fight for women’s equality. Throughout her long and successful career, she has been a role model for young women worldwide. She has done much to raise the status of women on the playing field as well as in the workplace, and to change long-held perceptions that kept women from enjoying the same life choices as men.
The CAMPAIGN and AMWA hope that Ms. King will conclude that her association with Philip Morris is ill-advised. Everything she has ever done indicates that her goal was always to help women, not to hurt them. Smoking kills thousands of women each year. If Ms. King will not reconsider her decision, at the very least we hope she will use her position on Philip Morris’ board as a platform to call upon the company to immediately:
Quit using the Marlboro Man, the most recognized and effective cigarette icon, and the female characters in the Virginia Slims advertising campaign that epitomize the company’s deceptive efforts to make smokers appear attractive, sexy, thin and glamorous;
Cease all of its tobacco marketing around the world that influences and impacts women and children. In much of the world, Philip Morris marketing is much more egregious than in the United States. In this country, marketing restrictions should include bans on vending machines and internet advertising, avoidance of magazines with high youth readership, a ban on outdoor ads and self-service displays at retail outlets and a complete ban on all brand name sponsorships of teams, sports, entertainment and other events.
Acept U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products – a requirement for all other products ingested into the human body.
Billie Jean King has always been a winner. Her decision to sit on the Philip Morris board, however, is a losing proposition