Wednesday, April 30, 2008

They Killed 8000

The FACT Movement ( kicked off a new campaign on Apr. 21 called "They Killed 8000." The 2-month campaign includes a TV commercial, MySpace ad and local youth activism. The focus of the campaign is to draw attention to the devastation the tobacco industry causes Wisconsin. 8000 Wisconsin residents die each year from tobacco-related illnesses. FACT is out to spread that message and to empower WI teens to fight back with FACT.

Below is a blog posting from Matthew M., one of the youth featured in the "They Killed 8000" TV commercial. Matthew is a 17-year old junior at Eau Claire Memorial and serves on the FACT Youth Board of Directors.

It seems ages ago (August 2007 to be exact) that I was at the FACT FINAL CHALLENGE in Madison that brought together 16 FACT members to help brainstorm ideas for the new "They Killed 8000" campaign. The FINAL CHALLENGE was perhaps the best FACT experience I've ever had, and one of the best times of my entire life. I met some amazing people, and made what I'm sure will be lifelong friends. In just two days, we managed to vote on one final idea, planned it out, created activisms and some street marketing messaging for the campaign.

Once the campaign theme and actions were created and decided on, the next step was the filming of the TV commercial.

One of the pivotal parts of the media campaign is the TV Spot. Let me set the scene for you: It's an eerie, desolate town filled with evidence markers showing where Big Tobacco struck, with five teens surviving, causing an uprising against Big Tobacco, and starting to recruit around the state for their cause.

When I found out that FACT was casting for a spot in this ad, I jumped at the opportunity and submitted an audition video. Four other FACT members and I were selected to star in the commercial. Oh yeah, by the way, the one talking to the camera, that’s me.

This campaign is much greater than a TV commercial. 36 FACT groups around the state will be engaged in FACT activism or FACTivism (cool word, eh?). These groups will be doing some cool things to spread the message about FACT and "They Killed 8000."

So why do I lend my voice to FACT and to this campaign? Two words: Big Tobacco! Big Tobacco companies such as Altria and Reynolds American - they're the bad guys. They're the ones I'm out to get. They're targeting me so I think it's only fair I target them.

Not only do they target me and other teens, but Big Tobacco knows their products kill people. Any business with any morals would pull their product if they knew they're killing people. Not Big Tobacco. They just want more and more money. That's why we launched the "They Killed 8000" campaign. We need to hold Big Tobacco accountable for the death and disease they spread throughout Wisconsin.



We're going to Fight with FACT.


Ryan said...

Ordinarily I wouldn't comment about this, but it bothers me to see somebody so young take on such a misguided cause with such zeal.

How are the tobacco companies to blame for even one single death? This is one mystery that I have yet to solve. I don't get it. It makes no sense to me. Can people not accept responsibility for their own actions in life? We all are afforded the right to make choices, and if we make the wrong choice, why are we being taught to shift the blame from ourselves?

We are teaching our youth that they are not to be held responsible for their actions! How is this OK? If a teen chooses to smoke, that's their own thing. Don't blame the tobacco companies. It's an asinine excuse and does nothing but remove the burden of responsibility from the individual who made the choice and blaming somebody who simply offered a choice.

This is extremely sad and very irresponsible and not something that we should be encouraging. It's really an embarrassment to all of us who shoulder our own responsibility.

Liz @ SmokeFree Wisconsin said...

The short answer to Ryan's question, "how are the tobacco companies to blame for even one single death?" is that the product they sell, when used as directed, can kill and has killed countless tobacco users.

Killing your customers is a bad business model, so Big Tobacco must constantly court replacement smokers to stay in business. The tobacco companies are incredibly deceitful in how they market their product to potential customers (i.e. kids) - their advertising departments go to great lengths to make cigarettes look appealing to young people. They conveniently brush over the fact that tobacco products are proven to cause lung cancer, heart disease, and many other serious and deadly health problems, and the warnings currently required by law are inadequate when matched up against full page flashy ads in magazines like Rolling Stone, Vogue, and others targeted at young readers. Big Tobacco also knows it has to target youth because by the time those kids turn into adults, they are drastically less likely to buy and try cigarettes because of the years of education they've received regarding the deadly consequences of smoking (and the increased likelihood that someone they know personally will have died from tobacco use).

But that's not even the worst of it. Big Tobacco knows that most smokers, often motivated by the health problems associated with smoking, try to quit at some point in their lives (and many try multiple times). In order to prevent their customers from deserting their product, they inject nicotine into their cigarettes to addict the people who smoke them. The product can't stand on its own, so they keep their customers by keeping them addicted. That's wrong - and a good reason to fight back. It's not a simple question of "choice" as Ryan puts forward - addiction takes many people's ability to choose away.

It's great that young people in Wisconsin are taking on Big Tobacco. They're pointing out that Big Tobacco doesn't take responsibility for its deceitful actions. They're pointing out that Big Tobacco has a history of trying to trick young people into making a bad choice. They're pointing out that Big Tobacco alters its product so that once a smoker starts using it, he or she can't always choose to stop.

I say, on with fighting with FACT!

Ryan said...

But Liz, you're skirting the issue here. I'm not saying that the tobacco companies are innocent in what they do, but in the end it's the individual's own choice to pick up that first cigarette.

You can't tell me that people are helpless to resist advertising. We're all exposed to hundreds of advertising schemes every day, yet we still make the choice as to whether or not we act upon them. As human beings, we are privy to free will over instinctual action.

Look, what we are teaching and perpetuating here is that if somebody makes the choice to smoke, it's not their fault. They can shift the blame for making that choice to those nasty tobacco companies.

But why? Are they conceding that they have no self control and are driven primarily by animal instinct over free will?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think highly of the tobacco companies or of cigarette, but I do think very highly of free will and free choice.

The tobacco companies haven't "targeted" or deceived the public in many, many years yet the excuses and blame remains. Why? Can people claim that the tobacco company came to their door and stuffed a cigarette between their lips and got them hooked? No, of course not. It's a silly thought. Yet, in essence this is what is being portrayed.

We would be better to teach our young kids to take responsibility for their lives and choices and not pass the blame. Kids these days are taught that there are no consequences to their actions because there is always somebody else to blame.

You want kids not to smoke? Don't tell them to blame the tobacco companies. Tell them that it is their own dumb choice to kill themselves and they have no finger to point but at themselves.

We need kids to learn to say "yep, I screwed up" instead of "you screwed me up."

Kyle said...

Awesome work Matthew. Wisconsin is lucky to have your talents and passion applied to holding Big Tobacco accountable.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand Ryan's logic. Kids should take responsibility for their own actions? Those kids are being fed lies by tobacco companies. As a child of the 80s and 90s, I can recall watching Joe Camel commercials, being taught that smoking was "cool." Kids are impressionable, trusting and easily manipulated. How can one not blame the tobacco companies for exploiting such innocence?

“You can't tell me that people are helpless to resist advertising.” Fine, Ryan, I can’t tell you that all people are helpless to resist advertising -- but I can tell you that a majority of kids are.

Matthew Mitchell said...

the main idea behind what we're saying is exactly what liz said, that tobacco companies are feeding us this garbage about how their product isn't bad, and that you'll be cool if you smoke.

you're talking about how youth aren't responsible for their own actions. i don't really even understand how you got onto that, because all we're doing is preventing kids from smoking in the first place. we're not saying "quit now, or be ostracized from society" because it's not the smoker's fault. it'll be from peer pressure or advertising that kids start smoking in the first place, and that is what FACT is countering in this campaign.

if they can advertise for their cause, why can't we advertise for ours?

and please don't ever call someone misguided until you know them. you have no idea about the hours and hours myself and 16 other youth have put in researching the facts for this campaign, and how many countless other people have been involved. we didn't make this stuff up. it happened. it still happens. and we're putting a stop to it. that's why i did the commercial, that's why i'm on the board, that's why i wrote the blog, that's why i'm replying to you.

pinky said...

Rock on, Matthew! It is so awesome to see youth empowered to articulately take a stand. You are definitley a bright star that makes the western region of our great state proud! It's so nice to have this region represented with intellegence and dignity, rather than through the backwards, "hick" stereotype we often are privy to. I am proud to see you excercise the choice that you made to have your voice be heard. It would be misguided and irresponsible not to encourage you to continue use that strong free will of yours to get your information out to your peers. Kudos to you and the other youth with the courage to speak out.