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Cigarettes and Youth

October 28, 1994

* Had the readers of your Oct. 14 editorial "Joe Camel Goes to Grade School" known that Weekly Reader previously reported on the Joe Camel controversy, they may have reached a different answer to the question you posed about the publication's position on smoking.

For the record, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco learned of the recent Weekly Reader story through news coverage. Permission was not sought to show the Camel image, nor would it have been given. That's because we do agree that young people should not be exposed to cigarette brand messages in school. Previous exposure to the Joe Camel allegations by Weekly Reader, Scholastic News, in-school contests by STAT (Stop Teenage Addiction to Tobacco) and former Surgeon General Antonia Novello placed awareness of the Camel brand and its advertising in schools. Whether parents were made aware of those exposures by student-oriented publications, government officials and anti-smoking industry representatives has not been reported. To date, we're not aware that any of those sources have acknowledged to the general public that the Federal Trade Commission found no basis in those allegations.

As a parent and school volunteer, your editorial raised a greater concern for me. Did it not occur to you that given the climate surrounding cigarettes today, students would most likely reject the issues posed by Weekly Reader? Research conducted last year by Dr. Cornelia Pechmann of UC Irvine Graduate School of Management indicates that young people have so embraced the anti-smoking message that their impressions of smokers now verge on a whole new class of bigotry and intolerance.

Reynolds Tobacco's position is firm: Youth should not smoke. The good news is that the 1993 Teenage Attitudes and Practices survey recently reported by the Centers for Disease Control indicates that smoking among 12-to-17-year-olds has dropped 17% since the 1989 survey. Those are the facts that the public needs to know.

PEGGY C. CARTER

Manager, Media Relations

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

Winston-Salem, N.C.

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