February 18, 2003 Contact: Orit Lender
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (718) 356-8113 ext.126


New York City's Reality Check To Team Up With Local NYC Health Groups And Encourage Stronger International Tobacco Policies Through
The Framework Convention On Tobacco Control Treaty

New York, NY - New York City members of New York state's anti-tobacco youth empowerment movement, Reality Check will request that the United States strengthen its stand on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) during a rally on the Brooklyn Bridge side of City Hall Park on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 at noon. Reality Check, a youth empowerment movement that educates teens about the manipulative marketing practices used by the tobacco industry to get teens to smoke, hopes the United States will join other countries in supporting a comprehensive global advertising ban which would call for tobacco companies to discontinue the use of New York City images in tobacco ads in foreign countries.

"The tobacco industry has been using the city's skyline and imagery on tobacco billboards, posters and promotional materials throughout the world," says Reality Check youth Jessica Harvey. "We cannot continue to tolerate the use of our city's imagery to market a deadly product internationally."

Also in attendance will be DC-based activist group, Essential Action. "We strongly believe that global tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris (now referred to as Altria) and British American Tobacco are using the concept of the 'American Dream' for their own profitable gain," says Anna White of Essential Action. White also cites that in the country of Georgia, the logo of the brand "American Dream" is the Statue of Liberty. In Hungary, British American Tobacco has targeted young people via its "New York Party Arena" cigarette and in Poland the Statue of Liberty has been portrayed holding a pack of Winchester cigarettes.

"What's really ironic about all this is that New York State is a national leaders in tobacco control and prevention," says Reality Check adult coordinator Orit Lender. She adds that, "just a few months ago, Mayor Bloomberg passed a no-smoking ordinance in NYC and our state government has made a commitment to reduce tobacco use among New York state teens and adults by appropriating funds from the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) toward tobacco prevention and cessation programs."

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According to Essential Action, the best way to address the problem of tobacco advertising abroad is for foreign countries to implement a comprehensive international advertising promotion and sponsorship ban. This week, over 150 countries are in Geneva for the 6th and final round of negotiations on the FCTC treaty. An international ban on advertising would reduce tobacco marketing to young people in foreign countries and help diminish the staggering number of global deaths associated to tobacco related diseases. The U.S. delegation to the FCTC opposes such a ban.

"The United States is willing to help so many people across the world, like AIDS victims in Africa," says Harvey. "I just don't understand why we don't do anything about the 1.1 billion smokers across the globe and the five million people that tobacco kills annually worldwide."

For more information on Reality Check, please visit www.realitycheckny.com or call Orit Lender at (718) 356-8113 ext.126. For visuals on international tobacco advertisements and corresponding companies or more information on Essential Action, please visit http://www.essentialaction.org/tobacco/photos/nyc or call Anna White at 202-387-8030 or 805-453-5505 (cell).

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Reality Check is a youth-led anti-tobacco industry movement developed by the New York State Department of Health Tobacco Use Prevention Program. The movement encourages New York youth to fight the manipulative marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. The movement is guided by a youth Board of Directors that meet multiple times per year to create new projects and share ideas and activities from each of their communities. Reality Check chapters are continuously at work in every county and borough throughout the State.

Essential Action is a corporate accountability group based in Washington, DC. Its Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control program, of which Reality Check is a member, links tobacco control groups in the U.S. and Canada with groups in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern/Central Europe and facilitates their working on meaningful cross-border projects and campaigns. Currently there are more than 350 groups in over 100 countries and 40 U.S. states involved.