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Health Advocates Urge Smashing Pumpkins, Other Bands to Withdraw From Tobacco-Sponsored Rock Music Festival in Indonesia

September 28, 2010

Washington, D.C. — International public health advocates are protesting tobacco industry sponsorship of a major rock music festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, next month and calling on the Smashing Pumpkins and other popular bands to pull out unless the tobacco sponsorship is withdrawn.

Advocates expressed alarm that the festival and associated marketing are being used to promote cigarettes to Indonesian children. Indonesia has one of the world’s worst tobacco problems and some of the weakest tobacco control laws. The severity of the country’s tobacco epidemic was graphically illustrated by video of the 'smoking baby' — a two-year-old Indonesian boy deeply addicted to cigarettes — that circulated worldwide earlier this year.

The Java Rockin’Land festival, billed as 'the biggest rock festival in Southeast Asia,' is being sponsored and heavily promoted by the tobacco company Gudang Garam under the cigarette brand of the same name. The festival is scheduled for October 8-10 in Jakarta’s popular Ancol entertainment complex.

U.S. band Smashing Pumpkins is the festival's lead act. Other bands scheduled to perform include MUTEMATH and Dashboard Confessional from the U.S., Wolfmother and The Vines from Australia, and Stereophonics from the United Kingdom. Tickets are being sold at discounted prices to students, and promotional materials refer to the festival’s appeal to 'younger crowds.'

'As long as this event is sponsored by a tobacco company, any band that participates should know that it is helping market cigarettes to children,' said Matthew L. Myers, President of the U.S.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 'If these bands reject tobacco sponsorship, they can send a powerful message that they care about the health of the world's children and will not allow their name and talent to be used to market deadly tobacco products.'

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has joined the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, the Indonesian National Commission on Child Protection, ASH Wales and Australian advocates in calling on the bands to withdraw if the tobacco sponsorship isn't eliminated (see their letters to the bands).

This is the latest in a series of controversies caused by tobacco sponsorship of concerts by music stars in Indonesia. In the past two years, Kelly Clarkson and Alicia Keys have had tobacco sponsorships of their concerts withdrawn after facing significant public and media pressure.

The tobacco industry has long used concert sponsorships to promote its products among youth. Tobacco brand sponsorships of entertainment and sports events have been banned in the United States, Australia and many other countries. However, they are still allowed in Indonesia under the country’s weak tobacco control laws. Indonesia is one of the few countries that has yet to ratify the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires countries to ban all tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships.

Tobacco use kills an estimated 200,000 Indonesians each year, and approximately 35 percent of the population smokes. At this rate, 1,644 Indonesians will die from tobacco-related illness during the three days of the Java Rockin'Land festival. More than three-quarters of Indonesian smokers started before the age of 19.