Aug. 21 2002
Washington, DC — While the National Basketball Association made the right decision to end the Lorillard Tobacco Company's sponsorship of the NBA "Hoop-It-Up" basketball tour, it is unfortunate that the NBA today attributed its decision to "unwanted controversy" rather than the tremendous harm this partnership posed to efforts to protect our kids from tobacco. The NBA's partnership with Lorillard sent the wrong message to our children about the harm tobacco use causes and the role of the tobacco companies in promoting youth tobacco use. In issuing a joint statement today, the NBA gave Lorillard a forum for defending its ineffective youth "tobacco prevention" program. We had hoped that an organization like the NBA, which counts millions of kids in its fan base, would be more sensitive to the harm that a partnership with a tobacco company would cause.
Lorillard is trying to use partnerships with reputable organizations to create the image that it has changed when in fact it and the other tobacco companies continue to engage in marketing practices that addict more than 2,000 kids every day. It is no coincidence that Lorillard's Newport brand is used by 80 percent of African-American youth who smoke. This is a direct result of Lorillard's sustained marketing campaign. Lorillard and other tobacco companies should not be allowed to whitewash the harm they cause by sponsoring ineffective "tobacco prevention" programs that are funded at a mere fraction of the $9.6 billion they spend each year to market their deadly products.
In its statement today, Lorillard disingenuously expresses "regret that an educational program to prevent youth smoking would be undermined by organizations who claim to support this cause." Lorillard's "Tobacco is whacko if you're a teen" program is ineffective and maybe even counterproductive. This program frames smoking as an adult activity, which, as any parent knows and tobacco industry documents recognize, is one of the most effective ways to tempt teens to try a forbidden activity. In addition, one recent study found that less than half of one percent of kids were aware of Lorillard's program, demonstrating its ineffectiveness.
Lorillard also accuses the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Legacy Foundation and other public health organizations of engaging in "a campaign to discredit and spread misinformation about our efforts." Although Lorillard claims it does not market to kids, it is a matter of public record that Lorillard's Newport brand is the brand of choice for more than 80 percent of African-American kids who smoke. It is also a matter of record that Lorillard has tried unsuccessfully, through litigation, to silence the American Legacy Foundation's highly successful tobacco prevention programs and that it continues to oppose effective measures to reduce youth tobacco use, such as U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products and cigarette tax increases.
By attacking those who point out that it has not changed, Lorillard has shown again that it is not serious about reducing the epidemic of youth smoking. We call on the NBA and other organizations not to enter into partnerships with tobacco companies, and we call on Lorillard and other tobacco companies to stay out of our children's lives, whether in the form of their seductive marketing or their ineffective prevention programs.