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U.S. Bands Must Smash Tobacco Sponsorship

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Only a few months ago, American Idol Kelly Clarkson sent a powerful message to young people around the world by rejecting tobacco industry sponsorship of her "All I Ever Wanted" concert in Jakarta, Indonesia.

But yet again, the tobacco industry is showing its insidious determination to hook youthful new addicts by sponsoring and promoting a major rock festival in Jakarta — one that features the American bands The Smashing Pumpkins, Dashboard Confessional and MUTEMATH.

The bands' fans around the world and international public health advocates are now calling on these performers to demand that the festival organizers eliminate the tobacco sponsorship and any associated branding — or pull their bands out of the show. Tell these rockers to reject Big Tobacco.

Bands must not lend their talent to Big Tobacco

They must not allow their talent and popularity to be used to market a deadly and addictive product to children in Indonesia, or anywhere else.

The Java Rockin' Land music festival, to be held on Jakarta's Ancol Beach October 8-10, is being sponsored by the tobacco company Gudang Garam and its popular cigarette brand of the same name. Cut-rate tickets are being sold aggressively to students.

Don't do abroad what you can't do at home

The tobacco industry has long used sponsorship of music concerts popular with young people to promote its products. Tobacco sponsorships of sports and entertainment events are now banned in the United States and many other countries, but not Indonesia.

American performers who would not — and could not — lend their name and talents to such a promotion at home must not do so overseas.

Remember the smoking baby

Indonesia has few laws to protect its youth from this type of tobacco marketing. The industry promotes its products boldly — and with dreadful success. The alarming video of the "smoking baby," with its disturbing images of an Indonesian toddler puffing deeply on cigarettes, focused the world's attention this summer on the severity the tobacco problem in Indonesia.

Tobacco use kills an estimated 200,000 Indonesians every year. At this rate, 1,644 Indonesians will die from tobacco-related illness during the three days of the Java Rockin'Land festival alone. More than three-quarters of Indonesian smokers started before the age of 19 — a telling reminder that the industry targets young people as "replacement smokers" for the hundreds of thousands of adults who die every year from the devastating diseases caused by tobacco.

Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys did the right thing

These are among the reasons why Kelly Clarkson and before her, Alicia Keys, responded to the outcry among their fans and in the media and dropped tobacco sponsorship of their Indonesian concerts. The Smashing Pumpkins and other bands from the United States should follow the example of these talented musicians.

They must refuse to be used by the tobacco industry and let their fans know that they understand how harmful tobacco use truly is.