Aug. 5 2002
Washington, DC — The National Basketball Association is dropping the Lorillard Tobacco Company as a sponsor of its popular "Hoop-It-Up" basketball tour, a series of three-on-three basketball tournaments that are held annually in cities across the United States. The NBA has made the right decision to end this harmful sponsorship. We urge all sports organizations to follow the NBA's lead by not entering into partnership with any tobacco company.
The NBA and other sports serve as role models for our youth. Lorillard and the other tobacco companies claim they don't want kids to smoke, but the evidence tells a very different story. Ninety percent of new smokers are children, and it is no coincidence that 88 percent of them smoke the three most heavily advertised brands – Philip Morris' Marlboro, Lorillard's Newport and R.J. Reynolds' Camel. In fact, Lorillard's Newport is the brand of choice of more than 80 percent of African-American kids who smoke. Sadly, the evidence demonstrates that the tobacco industry has targeted our young people for decades and continues to do so today. Sports and tobacco don't mix, and any association between the two sends the wrong message to our children about the harm caused by tobacco use and the role of the tobacco companies in promoting tobacco use among our children. Even in the guise of Lorillard's so-called youth anti-smoking program, which has the slogan "Tobacco is whacko if you're a teen," this relationship is very harmful.
When people around the country heard that Lorillard was a sponsor of the Hoop-It-Up tour, many expressed outrage at Lorillard. Many spoke out in their communities and sought to enter teams as part of an effort to protest Lorillard's sponsorship. The Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, along with the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, then wrote to NBA Commissioner David Stern on July 19, 2002, expressing our concern about an association between the NBA and the manufacturer of a product that addicts 2,000 children every day (view a copy of the letter).
Through this sponsorship, the NBA was unintentionally giving Lorillard a forum to claim that it is part of the solution to the problem of youth smoking when in fact Lorillard remains a major cause of the problem. Judged by its actions, not its rhetoric, Lorillard's real intent is not to reduce youth smoking, but to generate positive publicity for itself and head off government action to bring about real change in its harmful practices that addict kids.
We urge Lorillard and all the tobacco companies to stop their current youth prevention programs, which do more harm than good. There is no evidence that any of these tobacco industry programs are effective and some evidence, presented in an American Legacy Foundation study released in May, that these programs may even be counterproductive. Lorillard's "Tobacco is whacko if you're a teen" program, for example, frames smoking as an adult activity, which, as any parent knows and internal tobacco industry documents recognize, is one of the most effective ways to tempt rebellious teens to try something. Whether it's in the form of their seductive tobacco marketing or their phony prevention programs, the tobacco companies need to butt out of our kids' lives.