RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR), a big tobacco company, is using the National Association of Miss America State Pageant (NAMASP) titleholders to get its foot in the door of your school! RJR has created a so-called "anti-smoking" program called Right Decisions, Right Now. Why? Because RJR knows that school districts might think twice about letting a tobacco industry representative talk to their students about smoking. So, it buys the credibility of state NAMASP titleholders at $250 per school to do its dirty work. To the tobacco companies, every titleholder is a walking, talking advertisement for Big Tobacco.

What the tobacco giant is not telling Miss "States" is that its Right Decisions, Right Now program is developed in such a way that it improves its corporate image, but does not prevent kids from taking up a lifetime addiction to tobacco. Research finds that RJR's program actually increases the likelihood of youth smoking. You, and Miss "States" titleholders, are just more bodies in their bank account. Are you on the tobacco company's radar? Click here to find out if your NAMASP representative contracts with RJR. If so, here are some actions you can take:

  1. Write a letter to your NAMASP representative. Tell her to be a role model, and ask her to sever ties with RJ Reynolds and work with a legitimate public health group to educate about the dangers of tobacco.

  2. Write a letter to your principal and school district. Urge them not to provide any information to the RJ Reynolds Right Decisions, Right Now program. How else will they get your information? Educators should protect youth, not feed you to the tobacco companies. Click here for a sample letter.

  3. Get the word out! Educate your community. Contact your local youth activism group or smokefree coalition and hold a press event and tell the press that you will not be another statistic! Here is a statement issued by the national health organizations, calling on NAMASP titleholders to sever their ties with RJ Reynolds.

Your voice is important!

Youth and young adults play a key role in the nonsmokers’ rights movement. As primary targets of the tobacco companies youth have a critical role to play in taking back control over their future and telling Big Tobacco to stop counting on teens to keep the tobacco industry profitable. The truth is that tobacco companies need to recruit young people to replace those adults smokers who are kicking the habit or dying from tobacco-related diseases. Speaking out against tobacco industry manipulation and targeting tactics, advocating for smokefree work environments (many often enter the workforce as busboys or waitresses in smoke-filled restaurants), and refusing to take up an expensive and ultimately deadly habit would shift the power from Big Tobacco back to teens, and mobilize a very large, enthusiastic, and energetic group of potential advocates and future voters.

Unfortunately, tobacco industry promotions and advertising are on the rise and are reaching youth and young adults. Almost 80 percent of adult smokers began at or before age 18 (the legal age in most states to purchase cigarettes). More than 21 percent of all high school students across the nation are current smokers.

To spread the word about Montana's new statewide smokfree law, youth advocates held a "Chalk the Walk" event in Helena, where, through sidewalk art, they informed the public that 1,400 people (the equivalent of their high school population!) die from tobacco-related diseases in Montana each year.

In California, the youth smoking rate was 5.9 percent in 2001, substantially lower than the national figure. This lower rate is due in part to the states comprehensive, multi-pronged tobacco control program that focuses on education, policy development, and media. Across the nation, teens have been trained by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation to be teen educators. Thousands of high school students have “educated” their peers about the hazards of secondhand smoke in their own unique way – through skits, experiments, songs, and “lectures.” Others are involved in the truth campaign or other national, state, and local programs designed to educate, empower, and mobilize youth.

Youth are incredibly powerful allies in local smokefree campaigns. The key is to respect young peoples ideas and input, and to engage this group early in campaign planning. City councils are accustomed to hearing from adults why they support or oppose smokefree laws. Depending on which special interest group one represents, the arguments can be fairly predictable. But youth involvement and testimony in smokefree issues is often the ingredient to tip the scales in favor of a local smokefree law or other policy issue.

Young people represent the future. Let’s work together towards a smokefree future.

For Teens and Young Adults ONLY!

View the Quicktime (4.6 MB) public service announcement "Any Questions?" produced by Matthew Lee, an animator/illustrator from New York, NY.