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July Tobacco Smoke Alarm Sounds on US Tobacco Plan to Launch Cheap New Product and Discount Offers

July 17, 1997

Washington, DC - As Joe Camel heads for retirement, a brand new youth marketing scheme will soon hit the tobacco stand. Today, the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS sounded the July Tobacco Smoke Alarm on US Tobacco’s (UST) plan to introduce an inexpensive smokeless tobacco product called Red Seal, and on its decision to distribute coupons for its current brands that will make the product more attractive and more available to young people. 'UST’s motives could not be more transparent,' said Bill Novelli, CAMPAIGN President. 'By discounting its current brands with coupons and introducing a new cut-rate tobacco product, they’re targeting the youth market. With lowered prices for its products, the company is making it much easier for kids to get their hands on addictive and deadly smokeless tobacco.' One of the goals of the proposed agreement is to raise the price of tobacco products over time in order to make it more difficult for kids to purchase them. Because of this, UST has stayed away from actually cutting the price of its current brands, but according to The Wall Street Journal, in addition to unveiling lower-priced Red Seal, the company is planning to distribute coupons for 25-cents off its major brands, such as Skoal and Copenhagen, in markets where less expensive brands have sold well. 'While UST continues to dominate the smokeless tobacco market, it has faced increased competition in recent years from its rivals, whose lower-priced products are eroding UST’s share of the youth market,' said Novelli. Studies have clearly shown that the more expensive tobacco is, the less it will be used by kids. UST’s obvious effort to lower prices and hook more kids on its tobacco runs directly counter to the goals of the recently announced tobacco proposal.' According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of U.S. high school boys (grades 9-12) are current smokeless tobacco users. Among white high school boys, the figure is even greater: 25 percent. Users of Skoal, Copenhagen and other smokeless tobacco products are up to 50 times more likely to get cancer than non-users; these cancers can form within five years of regular use. The Surgeon General has determined that the use of oral snuff can lead to oral cancer, gum disease and nicotine addiction. Smokeless tobacco also causes leukoplakia, a disease of the mouth characterized by white patches and oral lesions on the cheeks, gums and/or tongue. Leukoplakia, which can lead to oral cancer, occurs in more than half of all users in the first three years of use. Studies have found that 60 to 78 percent of all smokeless tobacco users have oral lesions. 'UST has a rich history of trying to appeal to kids, so this latest attempt comes as little surprise,' Novelli said. 'Just this past spring, the company launched an alternative rock concert series called the Skoal ROAR Tour. Throughout the country the hip music line-up has been attracting kids and luring them into the deadly clutches of tobacco addiction.' The Tobacco Smoke Alarm is sounded monthly and is aimed at exposing the tobacco industry’s efforts to sell more of its products to children directly through clever marketing -- and indirectly through its efforts to buy political influence. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS can be reached by email at: TobaccoSmokeAlarm@TobaccoFreeKids.org. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Its mandate is to focus the nation's attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children, and making tobacco less accessible to kids. Note to Editors: Photographs illustrating oral cancer and leukoplakia are featured on the Kids’ Corner (Your Body) page of the CAMPAIGN’S web site: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org