(Washington, DC) – At 1:15 p.m. today, November 25 in Room 1A of the Hartford Legislative Office Building U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal will call on the President of the Boy Scouts of America, Secretary Robert Gates to reconsider the organization’s partnership with the Right Decisions Right Now (RDRN) youth tobacco prevention program. The RDRN program is funded by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Basic economics suggest that it is in these companies’ best financial interest to continue to attract new smokers, and thus big tobacco companies have shown a history of sponsoring ineffective tobacco prevention and education programs. The RDRN program was found to have the same ineffective qualities as other big tobacco prevention programs by a federal court.
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), sent a letter to the Boy Scouts calling the program a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” designed to make it appear that tobacco companies are no longer targeting their products to children.
In October, Senator Blumenthal called on the National School Boards Association to end its partnership with the RDRN program, and the association responded affirmatively and dissolved their partnership with the program. The Senators are now writing to the Boy Scouts of America to ask them to reconsider their partnership with the RDRN program, as it has been proven to be nothing more than a PR campaign in disguise as a youth tobacco prevention program.
“A wolf in sheep’s clothing, big tobacco has a history of using and promoting ineffective prevention and education programs. Indeed, this RDRN program was one of several described as such a program in a federal court opinion. Evidence from the vast amount of research into scientifically proven methods of preventing youth smoking clearly demonstrates that programs such as the RDRN are little more than PR campaigns designed to make it look like tobacco companies have turned over a new leaf and are no longer targeting their products to children,” Blumenthal, Brown and Harkin state in the letter.
“We urge the Boy Scouts of America 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.”
“We're grateful to Senator Blumenthal for his leadership on this important issue,” said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Legacy. “Like us, the Senator recognizes that there is an inherent contradiction between the values the Boy Scouts stand for and those that the tobacco industry demonstrate,” she said. “We must be single-minded if we want to effectively safeguard our kids --who RJ Reynolds themselves labeled as 'replacement smokers' for the 1,200 adult smokers who die daily -- from the continuing and very real threat of tobacco-related disease,” she added.
The full text of the letter is below:
November 14, 2014
Secretary Robert Gates
Boy Scouts of America
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
Irving, Texas 75015-2079
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We write with grave concern about the Boy Scouts of America’s ongoing partnership with the Right Decisions Right Now (RDRN) youth tobacco prevention program. We support proven interventions to prevent young people from starting to use nicotine products, which too often leads to a lifetime of addiction fraught with health risks. However, the RDRN program has not proven to be effective. We urge you to reconsider this decision to partner with RDRN and to explore other options for helping prevent young people from becoming addicted to nicotine.
The RDRN program is funded by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. With adult smoking rates down to about 18.1 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco companies have had to be creative about ensuring that they have new customers. Basic economics suggest it is in these companies’ best financial interest to attract new smokers. This basic fact should immediately raise red flags about whether they are truly invested in effective methods to prevent or cease smoking.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing, big tobacco has a history of using and promoting ineffective prevention and education programs. Indeed, this RDRN program was one of several described as such a program in a federal court opinion. Evidence from the vast amount of research into scientifically proven methods of preventing youth smoking clearly demonstrates that programs such as the RDRN are little more than PR campaigns designed to make it look like tobacco companies have turned over a new leaf and are no longer targeting their products to children.
Further, although the website describing the RDRN program has been updated to suggest there is some benefit to adults who stop smoking, there are no provisions in this program to educate older students. Finally, this program fails to emphasize the increased rate of death from smoking – both serious concerns that were raised in the final federal court opinion. Yet, R.J. Reynolds continues to promote their program, selectively using some CDC data in some of their materials to suggest legitimacy while downplaying even more damaging findings, such as the fact that cigarette smoking accounts for one in every five deaths each year. The Boy Scouts of America’s partnership with the program, which has already resulted in about 12,000 scouts taking R.J. Reynolds’s “pledge,” further serves to legitimize the disingenuous efforts of big tobacco.
We urge you to work with public health advocates about more effective steps you could take to discourage boy scouts from smoking than the ineffective RDRN program. The Research-Tested Intervention Programs database from the National Cancer Institute offers examples of research-tested programs and the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Mind Over Matter—Tobacco Addiction materials can provide the Boy Scouts with more effective educational materials related to tobacco prevention education. Better options exist, and we fear that promoting the RDRN program could set us back decades in the fight against youth smoking. Please immediately end your partnership with R.J. Reynolds and eliminate the new patch you have created for scouts who have completed the program. The Boy Scouts, and all American youth, deserve more than a PR campaign.
United States Senate
United States Senate
United States Senate