Last Thursday , several hundred people -- including 200 teens involved with the youth empowerment program Reality Check -- convened near the United Nations headquarters in New York City to send a strong message to the U.S. delegation to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: SAVE LIVES, NOT BIG TOBACCO! More information on the FCTC and how the U.S. government is undermining global public health by fronting for Big Tobacco

The centerpiece of the demonstration was a 10-foot-high prop resembling a Marlboro pack, with the words U.S. Pack-of-Lies." Accompanying the pack were a couple of large, removable cigarettes bearing common "lies" promoted by both the U.S. delegation and Philip Morris (e.g. Low Tar Death is Healthier). Another two cigarettes bore "truths" (e.g. Tobacco Money is Addictive). Participants were asked to play "Two Truths, Two Lies" and guess which two cigarettes represented positions taken by the tobacco industry (and the U.S. government). Photos of prop: 1, 2, 3

The demonstration featured a diverse array of speakers of different nationalities, cultures, languages, and ages. International speakers presented outrageous examples of tobacco promotion in their countries and called on the U.S. to support a strong FCTC:

  • Konstantin Krasovsky (Director, Alcohol and Drug Information Center, UKRAINE) showed attendees an L & M advertisement featuring a pregnant-looking woman and a toy racing car bedecked with the Marlboro logo.Photos: L & M ad, Marlboro toy car
  • Inoussa Saouna (President, SOS Tabagisme - NIGER) called for international solidarity against Big Tobacco. Last year, Saouna was fired from his job at a radio station for tipping off the New York Times about Philip Morris concerts at which kids as young as 10 were given free cigarettes. More recently, he has taken five tobacco companies (including the one that represents Philip Morris) to court for violating Niger's tobacco advertising ban. More info: NYT article, short report by Saouna (see page 10). Photos of Inoussa speaking: 1, 2
  • Eduardo Bianco (Chairman, Tobacco Control Committee, Sindicato Medico del URUGUAY) described how the tobacco industry sponsored the Uruguayan soccer team during the recent World Cup. Newspaper photos of the event bore the logo of the cigarette brand "Nevada." More info: statement by John Seffrin re: Uruguay Photos: Nevada ads, Eduardo
  • Akinbode Olufemi (Tobacco Control Advocate, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth - NIGERIA) called for the U.S. to follow the leadership of African nations in supporting a strong FCTC. His Global Partner, Tim Nichols (Director of Government Affairs, American Lung Association of New York), joined him to offer words of solidarity.
  • Clive Bates (Director, Action on Smoking and Health - UNITED KINGDOM) riled up the crowd with examples of the tobacco industry's ties to terrorist organizations around the world. Photo of Clive speaking

U.S. speakers:

  • Kirvia Ubri and Candierrick Narcisse (teen members, Reality Check - Bronx Chapter). Kirvia presented a powerful poem about Big Tobacco's lies and manipulation. Read the poem & see a photo of Kirvia Candierrick called on the U.S. delegation to "make sure that those who choose to put profit over health are held responsible for all the harm they are causing our communities here in the USA and around the world." Read the speech
  • Joanne Koldare (Director, NYC Coalition for a Smoke Free City) underlined the relevance of international tobacco control to New York City, where 40% of the residents are foreign born, and called on the U.S. delegation to support a strong FCTC -- or remove themselves from the negotiations. Colleagues held signs with the Korean translation of "Save Live, Not Big Tobacco." Photo of Joanne speaking
  • Kristina (teen member, Reality Check - Richmond Co.) displayed examples of tobacco advertising in the countries of Georgia and the Czech Republic which rely upon New York cityscapes and icons (e.g. Statue of Liberty) and denounced the tobacco industry's use of New York City to promote cigarettes abroad. View examples: Georgia, Czech Republic

Reality Check teens brought many homemade props, banners, and signs, including a large skeleton holding wads of money, with its mouth filled with giant cigarettes -- and a sign featuring a Marlboro pack sitting on the globe with the caption "World's #1 Terrorist." Other signs provided: "U.S., WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? BIG TOBACCO OR PUBLIC HEALTH," "U.S. & PHILIP MORRIS: STOP THE KILLING," and a Big Tobacco Grim Reaper holding a "U.S. Delegation to the FCTC" scythe. Photos: skeleton prop, grim reaper, whose side?

Large, colorful, multilingual banners commissioned by Minnesota-based Target Market on behalf of international groups involved in Essential Action's Global Partnerships program decorated the periphery. The banners will be sent tobacco control groups in Ghana, Malaysia, Mauritius, Russia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay. Teens wrote messages of solidarity on Eduardo Bianco's (Uruguay) banner, which his organization plans to use in their campaign to pass a tobacco advertising ban. Examples: Uruguay, Senegal, Ghana, Mauritius

Teens involved with NY's Reality Check program enthusiastically shouted a variety of chants -- including a Spanish chant to express solidarity with Uruguayan speaker Eduardo Bianco. See chants

See additional photos

American Lung Association, American Lung Association of New York State, American Lung Association of the City of New York, American Cancer Society (NY), Center for Tobacco Free New York, Chinese American Planning Council, Essential Action, Infact, New York's Asian American and Pacific Islander Tobacco Control Network, NYC Coalition For A Smoke Free City, SmokeFree Educational Services, Inc., South Asian League of Artists in America, South Bronx Clean Air Coalition

The International Conference on Illicit Tobacco Trade (ICITT), organized by the U.S., intentionally tried to suppress information about the demonstration. In the days preceding the event, security guards stopped a consultant for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids at the UN entrance and thoroughly searched all his papers. The guards were overheard saying that they were looking for "flyers about a demonstration." On Thursday morning, Essential Action passed out flyers to conference delegates at the entrance to the UN. UN security guards soon arrived, holding several flyers that they had confiscated from delegates. They announced that it is prohibited to distribute anything "against the U.S." on UN grounds. See the flyer

Essential Action
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Tel: +1 202-387-8030
Fax: +1 292-234-5176
Email: tobacco@essential.org