While tobacco advertising has been severely restricted in the U.S. for years, a symbol of America is now being used to sell cigarettes overseas. The image of American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson is being used by a local cigarette brand in Indonesia.
International public health advocates are calling on Clarkson to withdraw tobacco industry sponsorship of her April 29 concert in Jakarta, the capital city. Health advocates expressed alarm that the concert and associated advertising are being used to promote cigarettes to Indonesian youth. TV ads, billboards and other promotional materials feature Clarkson’s face and the L.A. Lights cigarettes logo.
Smoking has been declining in much of the West, sending tobacco companies around the globe in search of new markets. Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populated country, has no restrictions on any forms of tobacco advertising and has not agreed to the World Health Organization’s tobacco treaty.
The proportion of Indonesians who smoke has gone up significantly in recent years, putting the nation on par with India and China as the countries with the world's biggest smoking problems. According to the World Health Organization, rates have increased six fold in the last 40 years. More than 50 million adults smoke, the vast majority of them males. Smoking kills at least 400,000 people every year in Indonesia and another 25,000 die because of passive smoking.
Health professionals and others have been advocating for anti-tobacco policies. A new law declares smoking addictive and an anti-smoking group is pushing for advertising bans, more restrictions on public smoking and larger health warnings on tobacco products. The anti-smoking groups are now hoping they can persuade Clarkson to drop her sponsorship with Indonesia’s third largest tobacco company.
Clarkson has not responded to letters and online fan requests urging her to withdraw. The Indonesian National Commission on Child Protection, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and the U.S.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have all asked Clarkson to withdraw tobacco sponsorship of the concert.