Politics & Government

National School Boards Association declines help from R.J. Reynolds to keep kids from smoking

The National School Boards Association on Tuesday announced it was ending its brief partnership with the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. over a program aimed at keeping students in grades 5 through 9 from smoking.

Reynolds in a press release on Thursday announced that the National School Boards Association, an advocacy group for public education, would join it “to convey a strong and effective anti-tobacco use message to more teens.” It said its “Right Decisions Right Now” curriculum would educate middle-school students “about the dangers of tobacco use and offer ways for them to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

Critics quickly complained.

“Well, this one was timed perfectly for Throwback Thursday...Big Tobacco, up to its old tricks! RJR-funded ‘Right Decisions Right Now’ announced today that it's partnering with the National School Boards Association to prevent youth tobacco use...despite continuing to market to youth,” Americans for Nonsmokers Rights said on Facebook.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal earlier on Tuesday said in a tweet that he called on the NSBA to “end its deadly deal” with R.J. Reynolds.

“Using the message that kids need to wait until they are adults to use tobacco products in effect dares or invites them to begin smoking now,” Blumenthal was quoted as saying on Monday by the Washington news organization The Hill. “Big tobacco’s goal in this deal is to promote smoking, not prevent it.”

The NSBA put out a press release that announced the end of the partnership but didn’t explain its decision, and its executive director, Thomas J. Gentzel, couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.

“Our advocacy around child well-being is unequivocal, clear and on the record: NSBA strongly supports tobacco-free public schools,” the NSBA’s release said, using bold type after the colon for emphasis.