News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Tobacco giantw's antismoking course flops

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 24 November 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1206
  1. Simon Chapman
  1. Sydney

    A series of workshops for teachers on how to encourage children to “say no to illicit drugs, underage smoking, drinking alcohol and bullying,” sponsored by tobacco multinational Philip Morris, got a cold reception from Australian teachers this week.

    Advertised to run in four states, the workshops failed to get off the ground everywhere but Adelaide, where a tiny audience, swollen by public health workers, questioned the director of the course about his links with the tobacco company. Seminars in Melbourne and Sydney were cancelled through lack of interest, and the hotel listed as the venue in Brisbane had no record of a booking.

    The programme, “I've Got the Power,” resurfaced in Australia after a controversial launch in 1999, when its director, Kevin Donnelly, an educational consultant, was asked to explain why the course failed to acknowledge that Philip Morris had sponsored it. South Australian director of Quit, Andrew Ellerman, asked Donnelly this week to explain the same absence. Donnelly replied that during consultations in the development of the kit it was suggested that acknowledging Philip Morris “could be interpreted as advertising.”

    The programme is part of a worldwide effort by the tobacco industry to show politicians and the public that it has no ambitions to market its products to children. Anne Jones, director of Action on Smoking and Health Australia, described the programme as a case of “letting the fox into the chicken coop.”

    She said that certain documents from Philip Morris Australia “salivate over the prospects of the teenage market.” One, a marketing plan for the Marlboro brand, says that the 23% of the Australian population that is under 15 years old represents a “significant market opportunity.”

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