Australian, British and US rock bands, including The Smashing Pumpkins and Stereophonics, have been urged to withdraw from a music festival in Indonesia because of its tobacco sponsorship.
Anti-tobacco activists and health experts from Australia, the US and Wales have expressed their concern that the bands’ actions will encourage youths to smoke in a country with high and rising addiction rates.
The country of about 240 million people is one of the last lightly-regulated major tobacco markets in the world and is paying the price in terms of growing rates of addiction, especially among women and children.
Its reputation as the wild west of tobacco control was graphically illustrated earlier this year with the release of a video on the Internet of a two-year-old Javanese boy with a 40-cigarette-a-day habit.
The Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said it had written to US bands The Smashing Pumpkins, MUTEMATH and Dashboard Confessional asking them to cancel their appearances at the Java Rockin’Land festival next month.
“As long as this event is sponsored by a tobacco company, any band that participates should know that it is helping market cigarettes to children,” campaign president Matthew Myers said.
In Australia, health experts have accused local bands The Vines and Wolfmother of ignoring the connection between tobacco marketing and smoking-related deaths.
“Tobacco industry marketing is a key factor in what is killing people from tobacco-caused disease — about 6 million a year in fact,” Simon Chapman and Becky Freeman of the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health wrote in an article on the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s Web site.
Indonesia has “virtually no tobacco control policies,” making it a “tobacco industry paradise where publicity for music festivals, like the one Wolfmother and The Vines will participate in, wallpaper the country’s media,” they said.
In Britain, anti-smoking group Ash Wales has similarly condemned Welsh band Stereophonics for agreeing to play at the Oct. 8 to Oct. 10 festival in Jakarta.
“We urge the Stereophonics to demand the withdrawal of tobacco sponsorship and any associated branding from the festival or alternatively to pull out,” Ash Wales chief executive Tanya Buchanan told the Wales Online Web site on Tuesday.
The festival, billed as the biggest in Southeast Asia, is being sponsored by Gudang Garam, a major Indonesian producer of clove cigarettes. The company regularly sponsor music events targeted at young people, saying it wants to promote Indonesian bands and associate its product with rock ‘n’ roll values.
Wolfmother has responded to the criticism by issuing a statement on its Web site saying it does not “support or condemn the sponsors” and will play the gig for the fans who have “parted with their very own cold hard cash.”