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FOR RELEASE: December 13, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Reality Hits the Pavement to Expose Corporate Deceit

Reality, a teen-driven "brand" developed in Oklahoma to expose and counteract tobacco industry marketing practices, is being launched this weekend in Oklahoma City. The Reality brand will use edgy humor and unique strategies to reach youth through a variety of venues, including a road tour and television campaign.

For decades, the tobacco industry has been targeting kids using sophisticated strategies including product placement, partnering with famous athletes, and sponsoring events such as concerts and sport competitions. Reality will be using some of these same tactics to get the attention of teens, including the sponsorship of athletes, sports competitions and giving away free promotional items.

To launch Reality, a road tour will kick-off Saturday, December 15, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City and will feature action sports with Mat Hoffman, a 10-time World Vert champ and bicycle stunt legend, along with various other international pros.

After the Saturday launch, a specially constructed Reality truck will begin traveling across the state to schools, community events and other places where teens gather. The Reality truck is a "cargo" style truck equipped with music, video games, gear and lounge furniture. The truck will also be stocked with free promotional items to help market the Reality brand.

One feature of the Reality tour will allow teens from across the state to videotape a message to be delivered to tobacco companies.

The Reality brand will also highlight tobacco company documents that were made public as a result of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between state Attorneys General and the tobacco industry. These documents capture the tactics of tobacco companies targeting teens as potential new customers. For instance, one document from 1957 quotes a tobacco executive as saying

"Marlboro…the right image to capture the youth market's fancy…a perfect symbol of independence and individualistic rebellion." The 1998 Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey found that three out of four current high school smokers and two-thirds of middle school smokers use the Marlboro brand. Only one-third of adult smokers choose Marlboro. Teens who participate in the road tour will engage in petition drives asking the Philip Morris tobacco company to drop the Marlboro Man marketing campaign.

The Reality brand is modeled after a youth-led program in Florida that focused on combating tobacco industry manipulation of teens. In just three years, the Florida program cut smoking rates by 47 percent among junior high students and 30 percent among high school students.

Oklahoma's new State Health Commissioner, Dr. Leslie Beitsch, was Deputy Secretary and Assistant State Health Officer of the Florida Department of Health when the Florida youth-led campaign charted dramatic reductions in tobacco use among teens. "It is exciting to see that a similar program is being organized in this state by Oklahoma's youth. Should Oklahoma's program be appropriately funded as Florida's program was, then we can expect to achieve the levels of success that Florida's program experienced," Beitsch noted.


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