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Turkey: Philip Morris's “youth programme” gets adult response

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More good news from Turkey, just a few months after health advocates saw off, at least for the time being, the latest round in a covert attempt by the tobacco industry to establish Formula One motor sport in the soccer dominated country for the purposes of future cigarette promotion (see Tobacco Control2000;9:268–9). Once again it features Philip Morris, whose initial success at collaboration with a prestigious university in Istanbul was one of the nastiest surprises of last year. Philip Morris approached Bosphorus University last September, with a project called “Power is Yours” targeting sixth and seventh grade (approximately 12 and 13 years old) students in Istanbul schools.

When the university asked—and received—permission from the Ministry of Education to implement the scheme, it somehow forgot to mention the name of the sponsor. However, when the generous backer's name came to light later, journalists and international health advocates began to contact the dean of the university, urging him to abandon the scheme. National publicity was generated, bringing the matter to the attention of no less a public health guardian than the father of Turkey's tobacco control legislation, the country's president (seeTobacco Control1997;6:10–11). He asked the Ministry of Education to explain how the project had been permitted, and the next thing we know, hey presto, the Ministry of Education stopped it as dead in its tracks as a Marlboro smoker falling down with a heart attack.

So far as we know, this is the first time that one of the industry's wretched “youth education” programmes has been stopped after getting underway, and the reassuring lesson is that it is never too late to protest. And encouragingly, Turkish colleagues report that every new trick that tobacco companies try to promote their business actually results in increased public awareness about the industry's tactics. Let's hope they don't give up trying.