Brown & Williamson Serenades Callers
NEW YORK (AP) - Callers to a consumer hot line for Lucky Strike Filters find themselves serenaded by a folksy chorus urging teens not to smoke. Then they're invited to press a button for directions to the nearest tobacco shop.
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. says the song is intended to put a smile on its customers' faces, but tobacco foes aren't laughing.
``It tells you how insensitive they are,'' said John Garrison, chief executive of the American Lung Association.
Garrison said the message ``trivializes a very serious problem - there is no joke here with kids starting to smoke.'' It may even encourage young people to start smoking by appealing to their rebellious inclinations, he said.
The message has been on the hot line for about three weeks, according to company spokesman Mark Smith, and is the latest in a series of offbeat greetings that the nation's third-biggest tobacco concern has left for callers over the past two years.
In September, those dialing the number heard a male voice say the company loves them and that its rivals ``hate you and think you're ugly.''
Smith said the idea for the unusual messages came from workers who answer consumer calls.
``This message is an attempt to just have some fun and show we don't take ourselves too seriously,'' Smith said. The recordings purposely fail to mention a brand name and are not intended as a commercial, Smith said.
In the latest message, a woman's voice greets the caller and introduces a chorus that sings a jaunty tune about the tobacco plant.
``Oh, the tobacco plant is a lovely plant, its leaves so broad and green. But you shouldn't think about the tobacco plant if you're still a teen,'' it goes.
'''Cause tobacco is a big person's plant, and that's the way it should be. So if you're under 21, go and climb a tree.''
When the song ends, the woman's voice tells customers that if they can write a better song about the tobacco plant, the company would use it.
Callers are then told to ``Press 1 to find select stores in your area'' or 2 for any other information.
Smith said it is ``a huge stretch to say that we are in any way encouraging kids to smoke with this. Have you ever heard them listen to that kind of music by an old-fashioned kind of folk group?''
He said if callers want information on how to get a specific product, they are asked first for their birth date and those who hesitate are cut off.