Task Force and Galef Celebrate Organizations That Say “No Thanks, Big Tobacco!”

March 4, 2009

On February 25th, the Task Force for Tobacco-Free Women and Girls along with Assemblywoman Sandy Galef congratulated the hundreds of organizations across the State that adopted policies to refuse tobacco company donations. They also explained the “No Strings Attached” project in which organizations pledge a written commitment to refuse donations of any kind from tobacco companies.

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, a member of the Task Force Steering Committee and event sponsor said, “One of the most insidious of the tobacco companies’ promotional tactics is offering sponsorship and other donations to non-profit organizations such as shelters, youth programs, and community groups. They are not donating out of the goodness of their heart but as an attempt to sustain themselves as the public becomes more knowledgeable about their dangerous products.”

Historically, women and girls have been the target of tobacco companies, and the practice continues today. A recent tactic uses philanthropy as a marketing strategy by exploiting the good reputations of non-profit organizations that accept offerings from these companies. Tobacco company documents indicate that these marketing efforts are designed to help the non-profits maintain their profile while giving tobacco companies the opportunity to influence the public and elected officials.

Ashley Breen, Girl Development Manager for Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York, Inc., explained her organization’s reasons for making a commitment to refuse these donations. She said that, “Accepting donations from companies who profit from the sale of products which harm our girls would conflict with our overall mission – to build courage, confidence, and character.”

Marcia Pappas, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW)-NYS added, “Over a decade ago, NOW launched its first “Love Your Body” campaign to educate and encourage women and girls to say "no" to negative stereotypes and "yes" to awareness, health and a positive body image. As the tobacco industry specializes in targeting young women and girls, we also pledge to refuse such donations.”

“Though we’ve made great strides in decreasing the number of smokers, there’s still much work to be done,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee. “I stand with Assemblywoman Galef in fighting the marketing of tobacco to women, particularly young women, and in sponsoring legislation that would raise the age to purchase tobacco to 19 to prevent 18 year-old high school seniors from providing cigarettes to their underage peers. Tobacco related illnesses are preventable illnesses, and the more lives we save by continuing to curb smoking, the healthier our families and communities will be.”

The Task Force for Tobacco-Free Women and Girls, based at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, is a statewide network of individuals and organizations. Task Force Director, Pat Hysert, reported that the “No Strings Attached” project tested different ways to reach out to organizations and found that personal contact with leaders of organizations is the most effective method in securing a commitment from non-profits to accept only tobacco-free donations. Task Force members collaborated with local tobacco control partnerships’ during the “No Thanks, Big Tobacco” project. The New York State Department of Health’s Tobacco Control Program funds both initiatives.

The full list of organizations that say “No Thanks, Big Tobacco” and assistance adopting the policy can be obtained at the Tobacco-Free Women and Girls Web site.