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California's Ethnic Leaders Blast Philip Morris for Targeting Their Communities; Organizations Gather at Multicultural Area Health Education Center in East Los Angeles.


The California Joint Ethnic Tobacco Education Networks Tuesday issued the following statement. -0-

In a step to expose the truth behind some of the tobacco industry's latest products and campaigns, California's ethnic leaders assembled today to denounce the nation's largest tobacco company.

Already angry at the tobacco industry for its continued efforts to target communities of color, the California Joint Ethnic Tobacco Education Networks harshly criticized Philip Morris' new advertising campaign targeting minority women. Beginning to appear in magazines nationwide, Philip Morris' $40 million Virginia Slims ads are aimed directly at ethnic women. The theme of the ads, "Find your own voice," clearly targets ethnic girls and young women who are seeking their identities and social acceptance.

The Asian-American ad features a young Asian woman in traditional makeup and dress, portraying Asian women as mysterious, exotic creatures.

"This ad is offensive," said Betty Hong, director of the Asian & Pacific Islander Tobacco Education Network. "It perpetuates cultural stereotypes. The truth is, Asian women have the lowest smoking rate in the state."

Traditionally, Asian Pacific Islander women, with a smoking rate of 8.3 percent, along with Hispanic women, with a smoking rate of 10.0 percent, have the lowest smoking rates in California. The overall women's smoking rate is 15.3 percent. However, an alarming trend is that as immigrant women assimilate into American culture, they are vulnerable to advertising messages and are at an increased risk for smoking.

"The promotion of tobacco by exploiting the images of minority people is not new," stated Dolores Lewis, health educator of the American Indian Tobacco Education Network. "As early as 1985, Virginia Slims targeted American Indian women. It is obscene and dishonorable the way the tobacco industry has exploited and continues to exploit our cultures."

Philip Morris' latest brand, the recently launched menthol cigarette Marlboro Milds, is another example of exploitation. Four out of five African-American smokers are addicted to menthol cigarettes. Historically, the tobacco industry has bombarded the African-American community with advertising for menthol brands such as Kool, Newport and Salem. African-American men's lung cancer rate is 50 percent higher than men in general, and, at 21.4 percent, African-American women have the highest smoking rate of any women's group.

"We join the national protest in condemning the introduction of this new product," said Brenda Bell Caffee, coordinator of the African American Tobacco Education Network. "We consider this just another attempt at exploiting the African-American community by pushing just one more addiction."

For eight years, the California Joint Ethnic Tobacco Education Networks have monitored and scrutinized what they call the predatory tactics of the tobacco industry. The Networks expressed outrage at Philip Morris' latest attempt to reinvent itself as a good corporate citizen through a revised corporate image and Web-site campaign. The campaign promotes the company as the new champion of hungry seniors and battered women. But the Networks want the community to know that Philip Morris cannot be trusted.

"We cannot be misled by programs promoted by an industry that has purposely offered us tools of death. On one hand, they pretend to offer us hope, and on the other hand they are promoting death," continued Bell Caffee.

"Philip Morris' logo boldly declares `Veni, Vidi Vici' -- I came, I saw, I conquered," stated Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, director of and principal investigator for the Hispanic/Latino Tobacco Education Network. "Philip Morris makes no secret of its strategy. This corporate giant came into our communities, saw a new opportunity for profits, and now stands poised to conquer minority women."

"This is abuse," said Hong. "These ads try to symbolize smoking as part of a free, independent, healthy lifestyle. The reality is that smoking is the worst thing a woman can do for her health and the health of her family."

"While tobacco companies try to improve their corporate image, their legacy of death and disease continues to destroy nations, communities and families," concluded Lewis. "We will not allow companies like Philip Morris to claim more lives from our communities."

The California Joint Ethnic Tobacco Education Networks is composed of four partners: the African American Tobacco Education Network, the American Indian Tobacco Education Network, the Asian & Pacific Islander Tobacco Education Network, and the Hispanic/Latino Tobacco Education Network. The California Joint Ethnic Tobacco Education Networks are funded by Proposition 99, the California tobacco-tax initiative.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Nov 9, 1999
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