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Japan Tobacco Accused of Advertising Cigarettes to Teenage Girls at World Cup

Published on December 13th, 2011 11:12

Anti-smoking activists in Japan are blaming one of the world’s largest cigarette companies of advertising tobacco products to teenage girls at World Cup volleyball events. Japan Tobacco’s logo (JT) is depicted on the national team uniforms, court-side billboards, TV advertisements and little “gifts” given to schoolgirls and teenagers entering Yoyogi National Stadium during the World Cup, which is held until December 4.

Whereas the United States, European Union and developing countries have long ago prohibited cigarette companies from sponsoring any sport events, Japan Tobacco has been largest promoter of volleyball, trying to make the give sport popular among schoolgirls. Japan has hosted all World Cups since 1977. Japan Tobacco also sponsors a national team with the participation of the county’s famous player, Yoshie Tekeshita.
About 10% of Japanese women smoke in comparison to 40% of men, according to government statistics.

Anti-smoking activists have accused Japanese volleyball groups of advertising tobacco use, and state that JT is targeting young girls. “I was shocked when saw our supposed national team wearing gear advertising Japan Tobacco. This is a real nonsense. It looks as they are not a national team, but a Japan Tobacco team,” Manabu Sakuta, doctor who heads the Japan Society for Tobacco Control said in an interview. “All activities where JT participates are realized in conformity with the law,” said Mahoko Tsuchiya, manager of media and investor relations at Japan Tobacco in Tokyo.

Tobacco use is legal and common in bards, cafes, playgrounds and hotel rooms in Japan. Moreover, Japan’s Finance Ministry owns about 50% of shares in Japan Tobacco, which have increased by 30% this year.
The European Union prohibited tobacco advertisements on TV in 1991 and at various international sporting events in 2005.

The International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB), situated in Lausanne, Switzerland, tried to contact chief officer Richard Baker, but he didn’t reply to phone or email queries. Hiroshi Takeuchi, FIVB press commission president, declared that the FIVB will examine the given case “with some specialist in this field in order to elude from further misunderstanding. JT is a multi-products company and they are our main sponsor as the beverage category for this World Cup. According to Japanese regulations, JT beverage should not be considered as tobacco, even though they have the same JT brand,” he said.

Japan Tobacco’s official website states the company’s social activism, declaring that it donated about $40,000 to victims that suffered a serious flood in Thailand and $40,000 to earthquake victims in Turkey.
“The main objective of JT Group consists in creation and development of its unique brands, also to win consumer trust, and at the same time respecting the environment,” the website states.