Young campaigners stub out tobacco companies

11 May 2009

Young protestors outside BAT’s AGM.Young anti-tobacco campaigners around the world recently protested against two of the world’s largest tobacco companies to highlight the huge profits made from selling products that cause death and disease.

Many FCA members were among these protestors who staged events inside, and outside, the annual general meetings of British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International (PMI) in London and New York. Similar marches, press conferences, letter campaigns and other activities also took place in more than 20 countries.

In London, April 30, young protestors aged between 13 and 24 wore t-shirts and waved banners saying ‘Pretty Packets = Pretty Profits’ outside BAT’s AGM.

Many of the protestors were from FFAITH (Welsh for Facts) ASH Wales’ Youth Advocacy project, which is run by young people wanting to fight back against tobacco.

Protest organiser Daniel Clayton said that even during a recession BAT was raking in £10m profit per day. “There are not many companies that make their money by selling a product that will eventually kill half its long-term users,” he said.

As a result of the protest, the British House of Commons invited the protestors to speak to MPs about the harm of tobacco marketing to young people.

The protestors have also launched a youth petition lobbying the British government for stronger tobacco controls ahead of the Health Bill, which is due to be heard around June. British citizens and residents who are under 25 can sign the petition.

In New York, May 5, young protestors marched against PMI’s aggressive targeting of their generation outside the corporation’s first annual shareholders meeting since it split from Altra/Philip Morris USA last year.

Spokesperson for the Global Youth Action on Tobacco Network Anna White said that young people see through the cynical lies and manipulation PMI uses to lure and addict them. “We are taking action for a future where governments protect people, not corporate profits,” she said.

Inside the meeting a youth spokesperson from REBEL (New Jersey’s, USA, anti-tobacco movement) and an advocate for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids read out a statement from Dina Kania, of the National Commission for Child Protection in Indonesia, which called on PMI to stop exploiting Indonesia and stop targeting the country’s youth.

“Phillip Morris International – through  Sampoerna – continues its aggressive marketing targeting to youth,” she said.

Kania then cited the Marlboro Filter Rocks in Orchestra concert series, which was held in Indonesia during January. “Even though the concert was said to be limited to people age 18 and above, the evidence proved that children attended the concert and they were heavily exposed to Marlboro advertisement and promotions,” she wrote.

According to PMI’s 2008 Annual Report, its net revenues rose 15.2 per cent last year, with cigarette volume up 2.5 per cent to 859.8 billion units (6.5 packs of cigarettes for each and every person in the world).  The company credits “emerging markets” for driving its growth, with net revenues up 21.8 per cent in Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa; 10.1 per cent in Asia; and 23 per cent in Latin America and Canada.

PMI’s global and aggressive youth targeting during the past year has included:
•    sponsorship of US singer Alicia Keyes in Indonesia;
•     a branded mobile cinema hall that required a cigarette pack for admittance in Pakistan;
•     promotion of new flavored brands in Costa Rica;
•     illegal concert sponsorship and promotions in Mexico;
•     cigarette packs that resemble perfume and lipstick boxes in Russia and Indonesia; and
•    sponsorship of Australian motorcycle champ Casey Stoner, which PMI used to bypass national tobacco sponsorship bans via global media channels. 

“PMI is on the loose and out of control,” said White. “To feed its insatiable hunger for profit, PMI is preying on young people worldwide, seeking to lure them into a lifetime of addiction to the company’s toxic products.”


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