Miss America State Pageants Urged to End Partnership With R.J. Reynolds Tobacco

Mar. 16 2006

Washington, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has joined other public health organizations in calling on the National Association of Miss America State Pageants and its state affiliates to end their partnership with the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in which state titleholders visit schools to promote R.J. Reynolds' so-called "youth smoking prevention program," called Right Decisions, Right Now.

There is no evidence that R.J. Reynolds' program does anything to reduce youth tobacco use, and R.J. Reynolds is seeking to enter into partnerships with reputable organizations like Miss America State Pageants "to create the illusion that it has changed and is part of the solution to the tobacco problem in order to prevent the adoption of policies and programs that have been shown to reduce tobacco use," Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew L. Myers wrote in a letter to Miss America State Pageants. "The unfortunate reality is that R.J. Reynolds continues to market in ways that make these products appealing to children and continues to oppose the adoption of policies and programs designed to reduce tobacco use."

While R.J. Reynolds has retired Joe Camel, one of the most blatant efforts ever to market cigarettes to kids, the letter cites numerous recent examples of how the company continues to engage in marketing that appeals to kids. Among them:

  • R.J. Reynolds in the last several years has been marketing candy-flavored cigarettes and continues to advertising in magazines popular with kids such as Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone.
  • State attorneys general have repeatedly filed suit against R.J. Reynolds for violating the state tobacco settlement's prohibition on marketing to children. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice called R.J. Reynolds a "serial violator" of the settlement.
  • In December 2005, several state attorneys general charged that R.J. Reynolds was promoting both smoking and binge drinking among teens and young adults by mailing customers celebrating their birthdays a promotion containing six drink coasters, each imprinted with a recipe for a mixed drink - some with as many as five shots of alcohol per drink - and slogans encouraging excessive drinking such as "Layer it on, go 'til daybreak."

"Surely the State Miss America Pageant winners do not want to represent that kind of irresponsible corporate behavior, or take it into America's classrooms." Myers wrote in his letter.

 

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