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Despite suffering revelations that might have driven other companies out of business, big American tobacco companies still seem to feel as strong and confident as ever in their traditional heartlands. One indication is that they still rub along happily in the feel-good world of corporate charitable giving, and few seem to see the irony of their executives associating with groups whose work includes picking up the pieces from disease and premature death caused by tobacco.
Latest in the weird world of tobacco company munificence is the case of the chief executive of Reynolds American, Susan Ivey. She is a real high flyer, one of few women bosses in Fortune magazine's list of America's largest corporations. She previously held the top post at Brown & Williamson, having been director of marketing in China for British American Tobacco. She is running the 2007 United Way campaign, a national network of more than 1300 local organisations doing community work, and heads a campaign trying to raise more than $18 million.
The focus of United Way's work is currently education. One of Ms Ivey's more laudable goals, when she is not working on increasing her company's 30% market share, is to involve more women as donors, and no doubt as recipients of good education, too. However, it seems unlikely that effective education about the true facts and figures of tobacco use, especially among young women, will be a feature of any aspect of her work.