Health Advocates Protest Tobacco Sponsorship of Alicia Keys Concert in Indonesia

Alicia Keys Urged to Drop Tobacco Sponsorship; Philip Morris International Denounced for Marketing to Children

Jul. 24 2008

Washington, D.C. — International public health advocates are calling on U.S. singing star Alicia Keys to withdraw tobacco industry sponsorship of her July 31 concert in Jakarta, Indonesia, and are condemning tobacco giant Philip Morris International for sponsoring the concert as a way of marketing cigarettes to children.

The concert is being sponsored and heavily advertised by Philip Morris International and its Indonesian subsidiary Sampoerna. According to giant billboards posted in Jakarta (see photos), the July 31 Keys concert is being billed as "A Mild Live Production". "A Mild" is a cigarette brand produced by Sampoerna, the Philip Morris International subsidiary. The billboards feature a large photo of Alicia Keys, the logo for "A Mild" cigarettes and a large health warning that states, "Smoking can cause cancer, heart attacks, impotence and harm pregnancy and fetal development."

In the United States, Philip Morris USA and other major tobacco companies are prohibited from engaging in brand name sponsorships of concerts under a 1998 legal settlement with the states. However, in developing countries, tobacco companies continue to sponsor concerts by famous musicians, which health advocates have condemned as a means to market cigarettes to children and to circumvent restrictions on more traditional tobacco advertising.

Alicia Keys is being urged to withdraw tobacco industry sponsorship of the concert or cancel her appearance in a letter signed by the U.S.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the National Commission for Child Protection of Indonesia and the Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control, an international alliance working to reduce tobacco use that consists of more than 300 organizations from more than 100 countries.

The letter states, "We call on you to put the health of Indonesia's children first and either require the withdrawal of all tobacco industry sponsorship from this concert or cancel your appearance. We also hope you will speak out publicly about your concern for the health of Indonesia's children and against tobacco industry use of musicians and artists to promote their products."

Alicia Keys' participation in a tobacco-sponsored concert that will appeal to and is being heavily marketed to Indonesian youth is inconsistent with her advocacy for children's health through her involvement in Keep A Child Alive, a campaign to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in poor countries.

Philip Morris International became an independent company in March when it was spun-off from Altria Group Inc., parent company of Philip Morris USA. Industry analysts viewed the spin-off as part of a strategy by Philip Morris International to more aggressively target developing nations, including Indonesia, without the public scrutiny and legal challenges they face in the United States and other developed nations. Louis C. Camilleri, who was chairman and CEO of Altria, is now Chairman and CEO of Philip Morris International.

In a separate letter to Camilleri, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids condemned Philip Morris International's sponsorship of the Alicia Keys concert as evidence that the company has not changed and continues to engage in marketing that appeals to children, contradicting claims Camilleri made while heading Altria that the company was reformed and did not market to children.

"It is a cynical company with no moral compass that would engage in these practices. The sponsorship and promotion of the Alicia Keys concert in Indonesia on its face appears to be a demonstration that Philip Morris International has not changed at all in its willingness to engage in whatever marketing practices it can get away with, including practices that are blatantly and clearly targeted at youth in developing countries," states the letter by Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The letter adds that sponsorship of the Keys concert indicates "that Philip Morris International under your leadership is prepared to engage in marketing practices in developing nations, like Indonesia, that you would never engage in in the United States."

According to the two letters, about 35 percent of the Indonesian population smokes, and tobacco use kills more than 200,000 Indonesians each year. An estimated 78 percent of Indonesian smokers started before the age of 19.

Letters to Alicia Keys and Philip Morris International can be found at tobaccofreekids.org/aliciakeys.

Visit the Campaign's International Resource Center.

 

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