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Friday, September 3, 2010

Enticing Kids to Smoke, One Hip Party at a Time

Remember the days when the Marlboro Man and Joe the Camel made cigarette smoking look utterly cool? Those days are long gone, right? Well, maybe for American youth, but not for kids in Nigeria.
According to Environmental Rights Action (ERA), a Nigerian NGO, one company -- British America Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) -- is actively targeting underage kids with their cigarettes. But this time it's not just with cool looking ads to perk kids' interest. The company is going to great lengths to actually put cigarettes into the hands of underage Nigerians.
Secret smoking parties are the latest in this tobacco company's desperate attempt to ensure that a new generation of Nigerians becomes hooked on their product. Here's how it works: invitation cards are secretly distributed; youth show up to the location of the party and are greeted by stern-looking security personnel who frisk them to ensure that no one has a camera; the kids then enter the hall to be welcomed by skimpily-clad girls who not only offer up cigarettes, but light them up for the kids right then and there. The next part really sets the stage for this movie-like scenario. While the party is going on -- often until 4 in the morning -- BATN officials are on the upper floors of the hall, cautiously observing their precious party.
No one ever asks the kids their age.