Big Health squares up to Big Tobacco, and tells Marlboro Man to butt out of smoking prevention campaigns

Thursday 24 October 2002

Press release: Embargo – 12.30pm Thursday 24 October 2002
Geneva – the world’s leading cancer, heart and lung organisations today issued a direct challenge to Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International to stop their world-wide programme of youth anti-smoking campaigns.  This follows condemnation from of the campaigns from Dr. Brundtlland, Director General of the World Health Organisation.

The organisations [1] today released a joint letter [2] to Big Tobacco instructing them to ‘cease and desist’ and to play no further role in efforts to tackle youth smoking.  The tobacco companies run programmes in over 150 countries – and it represents an immense public relations investment.  Most of the campaigns stress that smoking is a choice for adults and that kids should not smoke; that retailers should question the age of kids purchasing cigarettes. In several countries [Russia, Germany, Romania for example] the programmes run jointly with the government.  WHO has simultaneously released a brief report on the issue.

ASH has been instrumental in revealing the hidden purpose of these initiatives: to make smoking appear more grown-up; to head off legislation that would tackle adult smoking; to give a plausible PR front; to gain access to health ministries; and, above all, to make no real difference to smoking rates. [3] [4].

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

This is a really important message from the hundreds of health organisations, and we hope that every government, and every public health campaigner will heed the warning and show the tobacco companies the door.

These are just not the sort of people we want near children and they have no place in any health programme.  The companies need to listen to this clear condemnation of their actions and back off.

All they are offering is a sly whispered message that smoking is for grown-ups, while holding out a packet of fags backed by some sexy

advert or the image of Michael Schumacher.

The organisations hope that the letter will be widely circulated and used to keep tobacco companies out of public health.



[1] International Union Against Cancer (UICC); International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) and the World Heart Federation.

[2] Letter 23rd October 2002 (pdf)

[3] WHO Briefing on tobacco industry youth smoking prevention (pdf)

[4] Youth Smoking Prevention pages on the ASH website


Philip Morris global youth smoking prevention program

BAT initiative on youth smoking prevention

JTI youth smoking prevention initiative