(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today called on the National School Boards Association to abandon its planned partnership with the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company to promote Right Decisions Right Now, a supposed youth tobacco prevention program.
Blumenthal also urged Connecticut local school boards to reject the National Association's “deadly deal” with R.J. Reynolds. The R.J.R. PR promotion Right Decisions Right Now uses a well-established, subtle strategy that can attract and addict young people to smoking by implicitly stating that tobacco use is fine- for adults. The program uses video and print materials under the headline “Kids Shouldn’t Use Tobacco Products.”
Blumenthal said, “Using the message that kids need to wait until they are adults to use tobacco products in effect dares or invites them to begin smoking now, because children typically seek to act like adults, especially if they are told they are not old enough yet. History shows that this strategy actually encourages many children to begin using tobacco products. Big tobacco’s goal in this deal is to promote smoking, not prevent it. It is pure PR for recruiting children, which tobacco companies must do to replace the customers it kills.”
Blumenthal said, “Using big tobacco’s playbook to coach young people is likely to make them losers in health, and lead to lifetimes of addiction and disease. The really effective strategy is to say no one should use tobacco products, and kids should tell their parents that they shouldn’t use them either. I call on the National School Boards Association to end its deadly deal with R.J. Reynolds and to create a truly effective tobacco prevention campaign. I urge local school boards to see through this sham and reject the deal.”
“We are pleased to join Sen. Blumenthal in condemning the National School Boards Association's agreement to adopt and promote the use of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. “Right Decisions Right Now” tobacco prevention program,” said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Legacy. “As the creators of the truth campaign, Legacy has a proven commitment to empowering young people to reject tobacco. R.J. Reynolds, on the other hand, is a company that has been found to be a racketeer engaging in a decades long scheme to target youth with its deadly products.”
“The National School Boards Association should consult with the health care providers and tobacco prevention advocates when selecting a program to stop children from smoking. Reliance on a cigarette manufacturer is mind boggling and head scratching,” the Mobilize Against Tobacco for Connecticut’s Health (MATCH) Coalition stated.
“We urge the National School Boards Association to immediately end its harmful partnership with R.J. Reynolds to promote the company's sham 'youth tobacco prevention' program,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The U.S. Surgeon General, the National Cancer Institute, a federal judge and scientific studies have found that tobacco industry 'prevention programs' are ineffective and may even encourage kids to smoke. The real reason Reynolds and other tobacco companies offer these programs is not to reduce youth smoking. Rather, it is to create the illusion they are part of the solution to the tobacco problem when in fact they continue to addict our children and to fight real solutions.”
With adult smoking rates down to about 18.1 percent according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco companies have been creative about how to ensure they have new customers despite all the efforts around creating public awareness of the health risks. Basic economics suggest it is in their best financial interest to attract new smokers, which should immediately raise red flags about whether they are truly invested in effective methods to stop smoking. Tobacco companies have a history of using ineffective prevention and education programs including Right Decisions, Right Now, which were cited in Judge Kessler’s U.S. District Court opinion in U.S. v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., et al., No 99-CV-02496GK (U.S. Dist. Ct., D.C.)(Final Opinion)(August 17, 2006). Judge Kessler found that programs such as Right Decisions Right Now could be considered as nothing more than PR campaigns for the tobacco companies’ disguised as youth smoking prevention programs.