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Protests Force Cancellation of Marlboro Concert Series in Bangladesh

November 24, 2014


A recent report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health organizations exposed how Philip Morris International is conducting a global marketing campaign — called Be Marlboro — that uses themes and images that appeal to youth.

Now Philip Morris has canceled a series of concerts in Bangladesh after health advocates protested that the concerts violated the country’s tobacco control laws and marketed cigarettes to kids.

The concerts, which started in April 2014, had catchy names such as Road to Rock Nation, Rock Town and Rock City. A November 7 promotional event held in a posh club featured stalls with attractive young women selling Marlboro cigarettes and giving out free lighters with the Philip Morris International logo.

Following protests from health and children’s rights advocates in Bangladesh, that November 7 event turned out to be the last in the series. Tobacco control groups mounted an aggressive media campaign exposing the concerts as a tobacco industry tactic to expose youth to tobacco brands.

'These Marlboro events were a direct violation of the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage Act of 2013,' said an official from PROGGA, a leading anti-tobacco advocacy organization. 'This law prohibits tobacco companies from sponsoring any program for the purpose of advertising tobacco products or inducing tobacco usage.'

Following these protests, Philip Morris canceled remaining events scheduled for November and December. On the official Facebook page of the events, organizers posted a note stating that because of 'multiple chains of events on various levels — from patrons to permissions to political issue, things have turned out to be very difficult […] looks like we have to postpone this Rock City gig to a later date.'

Tobacco use kills six million people worldwide each year and is projected to kill one billion people this century without strong action to prevent it. Because up to half of long-term smokers will die from a tobacco-related illness, tobacco companies must constantly find new customers. Youth are a prime target: Every day 80,000 to 100,000 young people around the world become addicted to tobacco.

Because it has one of the youngest populations in Asia along with one of the highest tobacco use rates in the world, the tobacco industry aggressively focuses on Bangladesh and its young people as an important market.

The cancellation of the Marlboro concert series was an important win against Big Tobacco by organizations working hard to reduce tobacco use in Bangladesh.