NBA DUNKS LORILLARD ANTI-SMOKING SPONSORSHIP DEAL

Tobacco Maker Dropped From Youth Basketball Event

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- The National Basketball Association dropped Lorillard Tobacco Co.'s youth anti-smoking initiative as a sponsor of its three-on-three, cross-country youth basketball tournament.

The end to the sponsorship came two weeks after the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, along with the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association, wrote a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern on July 19 voicing concern about an association between the NBA and the cigarette company.

Hoop-it-Up youth tour
Lorillard was notified

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of the sponsorship termination on Aug. 2 in a letter from Lexington, Ky.-based Host Communications, the agency that promotes the Hoop-it-Up tour for the NBA. The letter said the termination was effective immediately and that "no formal announcement to the media is planned by either the NBA or Host regarding this matter," said Steve Watson, vice president of external affairs at Lorillard.

Lorillard's program, "Tobacco is whacko if you're a teen," has been sponsoring the Hoop-It-Up tour for two years as part of the $50 million the company has spent on youth-smoking prevention since 1999, including $13 million spent this year, Mr. Watson said.

Lorillard is the maker of Newport, the second-biggest cigarette in the U.S.

'Tempt rebellious teens'
According to the letter sent to Mr. Stern, the "'Tobacco is whacko if you're a teen' slogan frames smoking as an adult activity, which, as any parent knows, and tobacco industry internal documents recognize, is one of the most effective ways to tempt rebellious teens to try something."

The letter went on to say that "Lorillard's anti-smoking program is nothing more than a public relations gesture. ... By entering into this partnership, you are allowing the good name of the NBA to be used as part of the public relations effort by Lorillard to provide it the cover to continue to market to our nation's youth."

Lorillard had not heard from the NBA as of Aug. 5 and is weighing its options, but would like to discuss the matter directly with the association, Mr. Watson said.  

"I certainly would like the opportunity to have a discussion with the NBA, not only about this decision but to further explain what our program is about and what motivates us here because I think our program has seen great success and by all accounts we were invovled in a perfect partnership," he said.

Chaney Muench, of Host Communications, would not comment on why the NBA terminated the partnership, but only said that "sponsorships come and go."

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