State officials are spending some of the state’s anti-smoking money on a trip for five Iowa high schoolers and their adult mentor. The students are all leaders of the state-sponsored anti-smoking group known as JEL — which stands for "Just Eliminate Lies" — and they’ve flown to North Carolina along with Garin Buttermore, the state’s JEL youth coordinator.
Today Buttermore and the students are in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, training to be prepared for Tuesday’s annual meeting of one of the nation’s largest tobacco companies. Buttermore says the main part of the training will focus on what he calls "media literacy."
"What Reynolds America has been up to as far as marketing their products to young people," he says. R.J. Reynolds makes Camels, the nation’s third-highest selling brand of cigarettes, accounting for about eight percent of the cigarettes that’re purchased in the United States. Buttermore says the students will stage a protest outside the company’s annual meeting site on Tuesday, and then try to have their say during the shareholders’ meeting.
"Two of the youth JEL youth from Iowaa have gotten proxy from shareholders," Buttermore says. "…If they are the proxy for shareholders, they are allowed to speak." Buttermore says last year the state flew a handful of Iowa high schoolers involved in the "Just Eliminate Lies" group to New Jersey to attend the Phillip Morris shareholders meeting. According to Buttermore, R.J. Reynolds was chosen as the target this year because of a controversial ad campaign in Rolling Stone magazine that critics charge was aimed at kids.
"They really seemed like the company with which to express our displeasure," Buttermore says. The five students chosen to make the trip to Winston-Salem are members of the executive council of the "Just Eliminate Lies" anti-smoking group.