School group cuts ties with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco

AP News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2014 7:57 PM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — In a quick about-face, the National School Boards Association is cutting ties with the nation's second-biggest cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

The organization announced late Tuesday that it is ending a recently announced partnership with the Camel and Pall Mall cigarette maker's youth tobacco-prevention program called "Right Decisions, Right Now."

The partnership first announced last Thursday was questioned by Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who had earlier called the program ineffective and urged the association to end its partnership with the nation's second-biggest tobacco company.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the association's executive director, Tom Gentzel, said that following the announcement of the partnership, it became clear that "the debate about Reynolds involvement was a distraction from our larger efforts to promote student health and well-being. ... To be in the middle of that controversy didn't seem to serve anybody."

Reynolds spokesman David Howard said the company is disappointed with the organization's decision to end the partnership but that Reynolds remains committed to accelerating the decline of youth tobacco use.

The "Right Decisions, Right Now" program has been in place since 1991 and offers free educational materials to teachers and parents of middle and junior high school students. It has been used by more than 20,000 schools, as well as by groups like the Boy Scouts of America and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. The evidence-based program is proven to reduce youth tobacco use, Howard said.

In a statement late Tuesday, Blumenthal applauded the organization for ending the partnership, saying that the youth tobacco-prevention program and others "of its ilk are shams designed to create another generation of smokers."

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is a subsidiary of Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Reynolds American Inc.

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Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum