State health advocates and officials are criticizing cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris Cos. for trying to buy positive name recognition by sponsoring a national "Bill of Rights" tour.
Margaret Kane, director of the Rhode Island Lung Association, said Philip Morris should also publicize its production and sale of 219.5 billion cigarettes each year, making it "the greatest contributor to the leading cause of death and disease in this country.""By wrapping itself in the American flag and parading the Bill of Rights across the country, Philip Morris is attempting to portray itself at the heart of American culture and political freedom," said Kane.
"By the time this 17-month tour has ended, more than 520,000 individuals will have died from smoking cigarettes," Kane said.
Kane and local representatives of the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and state Health Department made their discontent known at a news conference at the state archives building, where there is an original Bill of Rights on display.
Philip Morris Cos.' "Bill of Rights" tour will stop Oct. 17-20 at the West Warwick, R.I., Civic Center.
The company referred comment to a community relations official in North Carolina, who was not immediately available.
Richard Carleton, local president of the American Heart Association, said Philip Morris is trying to purchase "positive name recognition" by sponsoring the tour.
"Philip Morris claims to be strongly supportive of the American tradition of freedom of speech and free expression, but it has in fact deliberately undermined such freedoms repeatedly to serve its own corporate interests," he charged.
"It is well known how this company targets young women, minorities and the nation's youth through its promotional efforts, including sponsoring major sport and cultural events," Carleton said.
State health Director H. Denman Scott said Rhode Islanders pay $284 per capita due to smoking related health-care costs, compared to $221 per capita nationally.
"Further, Rhode Island is currently among the states that hold the greatest number of women smokers," he said.