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All I Ever Wanted Was a Tobacco-Free Idol

Kelly Clarkson's fans around the world and international health advocates are calling on the American Idol winner to withdraw tobacco industry sponsorship of her April 29 concert in Jakarta, Indonesia. And with good reason.
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Kelly Clarkson's fans around the world and international public health advocates are calling on the singing star and American Idol winner to withdraw tobacco industry sponsorship of her April 29 concert in Jakarta, Indonesia.

And with good reason.

Big Tobacco Wants Replacement Smokers

The tobacco industry has long used sponsorship of concerts, sporting events and other popular entertainment productions to promote its products among youth. These are part of the industry's marketing strategy to hook kids and create "replacement" smokers for the hundreds of thousands of adults who die every year from the devastating diseases caused by tobacco.

In the United States, the new law giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products bans the companies from brand-name sponsorships of entertainment and sports events. Other countries have enacted similar bans.

A Threat to the Developing World

Yet in Indonesia and other developing countries, tobacco companies continue to sponsor concerts by famous musicians, a practice that health advocates have condemned as targeting children and circumventing restrictions on more traditional tobacco advertising. Indonesia is one of the few countries that hasn't yet ratified the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires countries to ban all tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships.

The Clarkson concert is being sponsored and heavily promoted by the tobacco company PT Djarum under the name of its cigarette brand LA Lights. Television, billboard and online ads for the concert feature Clarkson's image and the LA Lights logo. They even carry health warnings--making clear they are, in fact, cigarette ads.

Tell Kelly Clarkson to reject tobacco sponsorship.

Tobacco use is a serious health threat in Indonesia--it kills more than 200,000 Indonesians each year. An estimated 78 percent of Indonesian smokers started before the age of 19, and nearly a quarter of boys age 13 to 15 already smoke.

Clarkson an Industry Tool

If she goes ahead with this concert promotion, Clarkson is effectively becoming a spokesperson for the tobacco industry. If she rejects the sponsorship, she will send a powerful message to children in Indonesia and around the world that they, too, should reject the industry's deadly products and marketing.

Clarkson has not responded to letters and online fan requests urging her to withdraw the sponsorship. The Indonesian National Commission on Child Protection, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and we at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have all urged Clarkson to do the right thing.

Fans, Health Groups Agree

Clarkson's fans around the world have come together to express their disapproval. Fans have posted hundreds of messages on Clarkson's Facebook fan page urging her to renounce the sponsorship, and have sent more than 1,600 e-mails to Clarkson's management. So far there's been no response.

Clarkson can look to singing star Alicia Keys as an example of how to effectively stop the tobacco industry from using stars as a marketing tool. In July 2008, Keys' Jakarta concert was initially sponsored by "A Mild" cigarettes, which is produced by Philip Morris International and its Indonesian subsidiary Sampoerna. When this was brought to her attention, Keys withdrew tobacco sponsorship of the concert and had related advertising removed.

Clarkson now must do the same.