Mission Statement

The mission of re:TH!NK, the Lakeshore Tobacco Prevention Network, is to improve the health of our residents by reducing tobacco use and exposure through prevention strategies which include community outreach and involvement to move policy forward collaboratively, across our multi-jurisdictional area.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Deadly in Pink

On the heels of RJR’s successful Camel No. 9 launch last year, Philip Morris has just introduced new packaging for its iconic brand, Virginia Slims. These "purse packs" are like no other packs on the U.S. market. They are shaped like cosmetics boxes and hold "super slim" cigarettes that are very small in diameter -- there are 20 cigarettes in a pack that is half the width of a regular pack. And of course the new purse packs come in new colors: pink and teal. (Sound familiar?) The hip packaging and tiny cigarettes make it clear at whom this product is aimed: young women and girls.

Philip Morris plans to launch these repackaged Virginia Slims with a major marketing campaign by the first quarter of 2009 and these new "purse packs" are already on sale in many markets. You can probably find them in your community. We can expect to see heavy promotion at point-of-sale and in other ways, including events.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: Six years after the introduction of Virginia Slims in 1968, the smoking initiation rate for 12 year old girls had increased 110%. Now, in large part to that kind of targeted marketing, 155,000 women in the U.S. die every year from diseases caused by smoking and those diseases result in $34.7 billion in annual health care costs. Data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that women are more likely than men to die from COPD, in spite of having lower smoking and overall death rates. Lung cancer is the only form of cancer among women that is on the rise and it is the leading cancer killer of women, "outkilling" breast and all genital cancers, combined. Smoking causes heart disease – the # 1 killer of women, many forms of cancer, respiratory illnesses such as emphysema, low birth weight, reduced fertility, early menopause, osteoporosis and the list goes on.
Find Your Voice: The Camel No. 9 marketing unleashed a furor of activities against the extensive and lavish marketing of that brand. We need to harness that energy and strike back again to counter Philip Morris’ blatant attempt to addict a new generation of women.

Here are some things that you can do to end this appalling marketing ploy:
  • Find out it the purse packs are available in your community and document the point of sale marketing (likely to start late this year and early next year) by taking pictures and/or noting where and when the marketing is taking place. It is powerful to show how pervasive the marketing is when educating the public and policy makers.
  • Use your documentation when you do outreach in your community or state to the public, media and policy makers. You can also use it to recruit new partners, particularly groups that work with women and girls, to tobacco control.

  • Actively support measures that are proven to reduce youth smoking rates, such as increased excise taxes. The more cigarettes cost, the less likely young people are to use them.

  • Actively support passage of legislation to give FDA the authority to regulate tobacco. At a minimum, this would eliminate the use of the "light" descriptor, reduce any point-of-sale marketing to black and white, and cover 30% of the pack with a large warning label, marring the sleek look designed to lure young women.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids would love to see your documentation of the marketing – it will help us make the case in Washington that the tobacco industry must be reined in. Please send your documentation to Victoria Almquist at valmquist@tobaccofreekids.org.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Oshkosh Northwestern Editor Supports Statewide Smoke-Free Air

On November 13, the Oshkosh Northwestern printed an article about business-owners worries about a statewide smoke-free air law that could be passes in 2009. Alex Hummel, editor for the Northwestern, also commented on the issue on November 13:

"Plain and simple, the time has come to enact an indoor smoking ban in Wisconsin. It's a public health matter that, left to individual communities to legislate, has created a counterproductive patchwork of bans around the state. Here, things have gotten tacky. The Fox Valley has become the model argument for a statewide ban, with Oshkosh, like Wisconsin, now the odd one out among the region's larger communities.

In 2004, Oshkosh voters endorsed a restaurant smoking ban: No smoking in places where food isthe dominant revenue generator. That was followed by Appleton's 2005 decision to ban smoking in all businesses, a citywide indoor ban including taverns. Last month, the city of Fond du Lac enacted its own citywide indoor smoking ban. So, the first to approve legislation in the region now has the least-stringent version on the books. Smoking law, in the north-to-south span of Lake Winnebago, is a hodge-podge of policy and rules.

Not only is a statewide ban politically inevitable, it is increasingly accepted by everyday residents. In early 2007, a statewide poll conducted by a team of firms found 64 percent of respondents to a random phone survey in favor of a statewide indoor smoking ban; 34 percent opposed it. In April, another poll found 69 percent support statewide. But let's not let facts get in the way.

Furthermore, Wisconsin is its own island, surrounded by Illinois' and Minnesota's statewide indoor smoking bans. Attempts to propose and approve a statewide ban here in the last year or two haven't cleared final hurdles, given our split legislature. But, now, with Democratic control of both houses of our state legislature, odds are a statewide smoking ban has a clear shot to passage.

So, let's get it done, take a healthy step forward and confront on the rest of the problems that confront Wisconsin. A prolonged debate on the inevitable is guaranteed to distract Wisconsin from what is now feared to be a $5 billion deficit and long-neglected reforms within education, corrections and general government.

Ultimately, Wisconsin would ban smoking indoors, not tobacco products, not smoking altogether. Lighting up outdoors, in your car or in your home will continue to be your call and, unfortunately, our collective burden."

Thank you Mr. Hummel for supporting this important health issue and taking a public stand!
If you'd like to thank Alex, his email is: ahummel@thenorthwestern.com