Letter from the California 4-H Statewide Advisory Board on the National Council's decision to partner with Philip Morris to deliver tobacco prevention education programs.

Letter from the California 4-H Statewide Advisory Board on the National Council's decision to partner with Philip Morris to deliver tobacco prevention education programs.

THANKS to Charyn Sutton of the Onyx Group and Jon Krueger for providing the text of this letter.

March 25, 1999

Dr. Richard Sauer
President & CEO
National 4-H Council
7100 Connecticut Avenue
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Dear Dr. Sauer:

I am writing on behalf of the California 4-H Statewide Advisory Board whose members represent University administration, 4-H staff, volunteers, and youth. At its February meeting, there was a heated discussion regarding how we could respond to the National Council's decision to partner with Philip Morris to deliver tobacco prevention education programs.

California has been and remains one of the world centers of tobacco control activity. The University of California is recognized as a major contributor to research studies around tobacco use and control, so it is not surpassing that so many are troubled that the 4-H name and reputation is being attached to that of Phillip Morris.

What is troubling so many in our organization is the underlying belief that there are simply no areas in which the tobacco industry and 4-H have a common ground. They are trying to sell cigarettes, and 4-H is committed to children's health. How can there be any basis for a partnership when the mission of Philip Morris and the mission of 4-H are at direct odds? Unfortunately, 4-H unwittingly is giving credibility to a corporation whose bottom line is profit through addiction. The industry must replace 3000 former smokers a day just to maintain its customer base. They have to addict youth because they're the ones who make up their market share. Over 80% of people who smoke got addicted before they were 18. Addiction does NOT begin in adulthood. Phillip Morris may say publicly that they don't want kids to smoke, but their internal documents have proved otherwise. In addition, by entering into this partnership, a venture which Philip Morris obviously feels is in its best corporate interests, we view the National 4-H Council as also sending a clear signal of disregard for the health of adults, both in the United States and around the world.

Among the obvious ironies of such an association is the fact that Phillip Morris has, within the past two years, spent more than $100 million to defeat legislation that would have created comprehensive tobacco prevention programs. Phillip Morris also actively worked to oppose or water down tough youth access legislation in states around the country. They also actively opposed the Synar Amendment (the federal law to make States enforce laws that prohibit tobacco sales to anyone under 18) for a time anyway, until the FDA released far tougher laws causing Phillip Morris to suddenly become a "supporter" of the Synar Amendment. To refuse to examine Phillip Morris' motives for its 4-H partnership is naive at best, and to posit sincerity to this corporation is to totally ignore their cynical, devious, and manipulative past conduct.

As has been pointed out time and time again, if Phillip Morris honestly wanted to reduce youth smoking, it would stop marketing its tobacco products to kids. A California study "Influence of Tobacco Marketing and Exposure," concluded that advertising was quite effective on non-smoking youth in California even more so than pressure from peers or family. Using data on 3,836 youth, they found that adolescents are very aware of cigarette advertising. Aggressive marketing and advertising have made Phillip Morris' Marlboro Man the most effective tobacco icon in history. According to a study by Dr. John Pierce of the University of California at San Diego, between 1988 and 1997, this campaign was responsible for convincing 1.4 million children to begin smoking. In addition, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that 60 percent of kids who smoke prefer Marlboro. In response to political pressure, the industry repeatedly has created anti-smoking programs supposedly designed to reduce use. These efforts have not been effective in curbing smoking. In fact, a 1995 internal industry memo recently made public shows the image-building intent: "If we don't do something fast to project that sense of industry responsibility regarding the youth access issue, we are going to be looking at severe marketing restrictions in a very short time." And marketing restrictions are the key. A report by a Phillip Morris researcher Myron E. Johnson to the head of Research at Phillip Morris, Robert B. Seligman outlines that: "Marlboro's phenomenal growth rate in the past has been attributable in large part to our high market penetration among young smokers . . . 15-19 years old . . . my own data, which includes younger teenagers, shows even higher market penetration among 15-17 year olds."

Other published memos by the same researcher state how Marlboro dominates the youth market and that today's teen is tomorrow's customer. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary how can anyone seriously believe Phillip Morris is in the business of unselling cigarettes to youth? One executive is on record as saying, "if they have lips, we want them." With comments like that together with overwhelming statistics, it should be totally clear why we don t want them! The unanimous decision of the Advisory board is that we do not want this affiliation.

Since we have been informed that you were aware of most of these facts before you made this decision, all we can do is make you aware that in the 4-H Program in California it is generally felt that this partnership is terribly shortsighted. Phillip Morris may improve its corporate image, but 4-H will certainly not. In California, this has the potential to become a public relations nightmare as the perception holds that National Council and Cooperative Extension are one and the same. It then follows that the University of California's Youth Development Program has sold its name and reputation to Phillip Morris. As one older 4-H youth said, "4-H does not belong in Marlboro country."

We are now in the awkward position of explaining this inexplicable decision that the National Council has made. We hope that in the future more attention will be given to the consequences of corporate partnerships and its impact upon our image.


Ann Brosnahan
California 4-H Advisory Committee

C: Regional Directors
Marc Braverman

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