Monday, February 27, 2006

American Legacy Foundation Admits Partnering with Company that is Knowingly Recruiting Multitudes of New Young Smokers

In an advertisement that is first appearing in the Daily Variety today, the American Legacy Foundation has essentially admitted that it is partnering with a corporation that is knowingly recruiting multitudes of young smokers by exposing them to portrayals of smoking in the movies.

The advertisement, signed by the American Legacy Foundation, whose lead corporate partner is Time Warner (which owns Warner Brothers, one of the chief sources of youth exposure to smoking in the movies), cites a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, which estimated that movie companies could reduce adolescent smoking by 60% by putting an R-rating on all films that contain smoking. Such a measure, according to the ad, would prevent 200,000 youths from starting to smoke each year, and would avert 62,000 premature deaths.

According to the advertisement: "The undersigned [meaning the American Legacy Foundation] expect the media corporations engaged in motion picture production and distribution [meaning Time Warner] to embrace their social responsibility and immediately adopt science-based policies, including the R-rating of tobacco imagery, to reduce youth exposure and risks to human health."

"Given the compelling evidence, any further delay can only mean the knowing recruitment of multitudes of new young smokers by this powerful promotional channel."

The Rest of the Story

Unless I am missing something, in this advertisement, the American Legacy Foundation is claiming that Time Warner is knowingly recruiting multitudes of new young smokers by the powerful promotional channel of their smoking-portraying movies.

That brings up some interesting questions:

What the heck is the American Legacy Foundation doing partnering with Time Warner and calling the company a "leader in this important movement" [the anti-smoking movement]?

Why would the American Legacy Foundation choose to partner with an organization that is knowingly recruiting multitudes of new young smokers?

Aren't there a couple of companies out there which don't recruit multitudes of new young smokers that Legacy could partner with instead?

And how in the world does knowingly recruiting multitudes of new young smokers constitute being a "leader" in the tobacco control movement?

Moreover, it seems particularly hypocritical for the American Legacy Foundation to partner with a company that is knowingly recruiting multitudes of new young smokers when it prohibits its grantees from even accepting research money from tobacco companies which recruit new young smokers. What in the world is the difference? And why is it OK for Legacy to have a bona fide partnership with companies that are recruiting smokers when its grantees are not allowed to even accept research dollars from such companies?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing that it is appropriate for universities to accept tobacco industry funding for academic research. I'm just pointing out the extreme hypocrisy in what Legacy is doing.

The rest of the story is that the American Legacy Foundation appears to have acknowledged that they are partnering with a company that is knowingly recruiting multitudes of new young smokers and contributing substantially to 62,000 deaths annually. By virtue of this partnership, I feel that Legacy itself becomes something of an accomplice, or at least an enabler, in allowing this knowing recruitment of new young smokers to occur.

I don't see any way that Legacy can credibly maintain its mission of trying to create a world where young people can reject tobacco and effectively advocate for policies necessary to make that goal possible when Legacy itself is partnering with one of the chief culprits, a company that Legacy itself admits is recruiting our young people to smoke and contributing to thousands of premature deaths each year.

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