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Why We Support the Stop Marlboro Campaign

By the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Health Team

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids launched the “Stop Marlboro Campaign” ahead of Philip Morris’ annual shareholder meeting to send a strong message to Philip Morris: stop targeting young people. And the organization is also calling upon government officials around the world to ban Philip Morris’ latest international marketing campaign, “Be Marlboro.”

Big Tobacco is turning to emerging markets, particularly low- and middle-income countries where fewer regulations exist, especially as smoking rates have declined and public attitudes have turned against smoking in the U.S. (Philip Morris’ home turf).

And their marketing indicates that they are quickly laying down the groundwork to hook the next generation of smokers. Despite denials from Big Tobacco, volumes of internal industry documents and decades of research show that these companies target children as young as 13-years-old and it works to increase youth smoking rates.

Launched in 2011, the “Be Marlboro” campaign draws on youth-oriented images and themes. It features young, hip dreamers, partying, falling in love, and leading adventurous lives. In 2013 a German court banned “Be Marlboro” advertisements on the grounds that the campaign is designed to encourage children as young as 14-years-old to smoke – a violation of Germany’s advertising law.

It hasn’t stopped Philip Morris from expanding into more than 60 countries, threatening the health of millions of young people worldwide.  Philip Morris continues to aggressively roll out the “Be Marlboro” campaign, especially in low- and middle-income countries struggling with the enormous tobacco epidemic.

In countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Argentina, Philip Morris is taking advantage of a lack of regulation or is actively thwarting strong tobacco control policies through the courts, sponsoring youth oriented events like music festivals and even placing tobacco advertisements at eye level and near candy where children and adolescents are likely to see them.

We can’t allow big tobacco to undo years of vital work to change public attitudes towards smoking and to entrench itself into other parts of the world. The tobacco epidemic is killing more than six million people every year, mostly in developing countries. If left unchecked, tobacco use will kill more than one billion people this century. That’s why the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use is working to implement proven tobacco control policies around the world – and that’s why we support the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ “Stop Marlboro Campaign.”

Join the fight by visiting www.stopmarlboro.org and sign the petition calling on officials to ban “Be Marlboro,” and take action on social media. Use the hashtags #stopmarlboro and #TCGlobal in your post.