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Sports Illustrated Releases Its Annual Tobacco – Uh, Swimsuit – Issue

February 24, 2016

Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue recently landed in mailboxes, and once again it is crammed with ads for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. These ads portray deadly and addictive tobacco products as fun and sexy, a tactic the tobacco industry has used for decades to lure young people.

Amidst photos of models in body paint and ever-skimpier bikinis, this year’s swimsuit issue features five tobacco ads – three for the leading smokeless tobacco brands (Grizzly, Skoal and Copenhagen) and two for cigarettes (Newport and Natural American Spirit). The Newport ad itself features some skimpy bikinis, while the Grizzly ad gives a friendly wink to young males with the message “You will NEVER date a girl in this magazine.”

Slideshow: 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition Tobacco Ads

These products are all made by the nation’s largest tobacco companies – Altria, Reynolds American and their subsidiaries. These companies have long histories of marketing to kids and have been sanctioned by a federal judge for doing so. They surely know that Sports Illustrated – especially the swimsuit issue – is read by millions of teens.

These ads are further evidence that tobacco companies have not changed and continue to target kids. It’s outrageous that they do so, and shameful that Sports Illustrated is selling them the ad space.

These ads also continue the tobacco companies’ tactic of linking smokeless tobacco with sports – to harmful effect. A September 2015 report by the CDC found that high school athletes use smokeless tobacco at nearly twice the rate of non-athletes; among male high school athletes, smokeless tobacco use is particularly alarming at 17.4 percent in 2013.

To break this link between tobacco and sports, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other leading health organizations are mounting the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park campaign to take tobacco out of baseball. Three Major League cities – San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles – have enacted citywide prohibitions that will cover their stadiums this season, with other cities like New York considering similar action.