Aug. 29 2008
Washington, D.C. — For the second time in a month, Philip Morris International has had to withdraw sponsorship and promotion of a concert in a developing country after coming under international criticism for engaging in cigarette marketing that appeals to children.
This time, Philip Morris International has been forced to withdraw from an August 30 reunion concert in the Philippines by the popular Filipino band Eraserheads, which has been called the "Beatles of the Philippines." The concert is moving forward with a non-tobacco sponsor. In July, Philip Morris International withdrew its sponsorship of singer Alicia Keys' concert in Jakarta, Indonesia, after it faced public criticism and Ms. Keys called for Philip Morris' withdrawal.
In the Philippines, Philip Morris International withdrew after health advocates protested the company's involvement and the Philippines Department of Health warned the company that its sponsorship and related marketing violated the country's tobacco regulation law. The law prohibits all forms of tobacco advertising in mass media including the Internet, places strict restrictions on other tobacco promotional activities, and bans tobacco company sponsorship of concerts and other events.
We applaud the Philippines Department of Health for setting an international example by taking aggressive action to enforce the country's tobacco control law and protect Filipino children from this blatant effort to market cigarettes to them. With this action, the Philippines government is taking seriously its obligations under the World Health Organization's international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which among other things calls on ratifying nations to ban all tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships.
Nations should act quickly to implement this and other provisions of the treaty and protect their children from being exposed to the tobacco industry's insidious marketing tactics. We also call on Philip Morris International and all tobacco companies to immediately stop all tobacco sponsorships and promotions, not just when they are caught red-handed as in the Philippines and Indonesia.
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 an effective means to market cigarettes to children and to circumvent restrictions on more traditional tobacco advertising.
In the Philippines, those seeking tickets to the Eraserheads concert had been directed to www.marlboro.ph, a Web site run by Philip Morris International's Philippine subsidiary. To receive tickets and information, visitors to the Web site had to provide personal contact information that would allow Philip Morris International to send them promotional materials for cigarettes. Additionally, the reunion concert had generated enormous Internet buzz that often mentioned the Marlboro Web site and brand name, providing enormous publicity for Philip Morris International's best-selling cigarette brand.