Regional Health Council Charges Riverbend With Violating Federal Prohibition On Tobacco Advertising

Friday, June 18, 2010 - by Judy Frank

A coalition of local health-related agencies led by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Health Council says Riverbend Festival officials have violated a federal court agreement by allowing cigarette companies to promote their products to children, teens and young adults.

“(W)e observed this year that the Longhorn Tobacco Company trailer has been positioned next to the Children’s Play Area and the Camel Cigarette tent near the food court where many children and families gather,” the group said in a letter to Chip Baker, executive director of Friends of the Festival.



Mr. Baker also serves as a member of the Hamilton County school board which oversees public schools charged with educating local elementary, middle and high school students.

“In 1998, the attorneys general of 46 states, including Tennessee, signed a Master Settlement Agreement with the four largest tobacco companies in the U.S.,” according to the letter, which is signed by Howard Roddy, who chairs the regional health council and served as director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department for many years.

Current health department director Becky Barnes co-signed the document.

“The states settled Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for the recovery of tobacco-related health care costs. We remind you again that in exchange, the agreement prohibits tobacco advertising to young people less than 18 years of age,” the letter continues. “Tobacco use is a huge burden to the families in Tennessee and Hamilton County and is the most preventable cause of premature mortality and morbidity in the United States and in Tennessee.”

The letter, in its entirety, reads:

June 17, 2010
Chip Baker, Executive Director
Friends of the Festival
180 Hamm Road
Chattanooga, TN 37405-

This letter is a follow-up to correspondence dated December 31, 2009 and April 30, 2010, sent to you from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Health Council. These communications referenced the past practice of the Friends of the Festival allowing tobacco product vendors to advertise and distribute tobacco products at Riverbend in the presence of children, teens and young adults, which we believe is a violation of the federal Master Settlement Agreement of 1998.

It is with much regret that we find that you and your organization made the apparent
decision to proceed with having tobacco product vendors at the Riverbend Festival again this year, knowing that they are continuing to distribute free tobacco products including cigarette samples.

To add insult, we observed this year that the Longhorn Tobacco Company trailer has been positioned next to the Children’s Play Area and the Camel Cigarette tent near the food court where many children and families gather.

In 1998, the attorneys general of 46 states, including Tennessee, signed a Master Settlement Agreement with the four largest tobacco companies in the U.S. The states settled Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for the recovery of tobacco-related health care costs. We remind you again that in exchange, the agreement prohibits tobacco advertising to young people less than 18 years of age.

Tobacco use is a huge burden to the families in Tennessee and Hamilton County and is the most preventable cause of premature mortality and morbidity in the United States and in Tennessee.

Our data reflects that 22.6% of Hamilton County adults are current smokers. In Tennessee, smoking rates among 18-25 year olds, a group well represented at Riverbend, is 46.9%. Ninety percent of adult smokers start before the age of 19.

If adolescents and young adults can be kept tobacco-free, most will remain tobacco-free for the rest of their lives. Leading environmental risk factors for tobacco addiction include the accessibility and availability of tobacco products, tobacco advertising and promotion practices. The Master Settlement Agreement addresses these risk factors by banning free sampling of tobacco products where youth are present.

Again, we believe there is a violation of the Master Settlement Agreement, and enforcement could be brought from the State Attorney General’s office.

In addition to complying with the law, we urge you to be proactive and join other entities such as the Neyland Stadium and the Bristol Motor Speedway in making Riverbend a smoke-free outdoor venue, which would prevent deadly second hand smoke exposure to all festival goers.

The following organizations endorse this joint letter, urging your organization to adopt a new policy that protects our children and families from the influence of the tobacco industry:

Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Health Council
Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department
Smoke-Free Chattanooga Coalition
American Lung Association Chattanooga Chapter
American Cancer Society Chattanooga Chapter
American Heart Association

Respectfully,

Howard Roddy
Chair, Chattanooga-Hamilton County
Regional Health Council

Becky Barnes
Administrator, Chattanooga- Hamilton
County Health Dept.

cc: Hugh Moore, Chair, Board of Directors, Friends of the Festival
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General, State of Tennessee
Dr. Diane Fillman, Smoke-Free Chattanooga Coalition
Shirley Cudabac, Executive Director, American Lung Association Chattanooga Chapter
Lisa Bishop, Executive Director, American Cancer Society Chattanooga Chapter
Chastity A. Mitchell, Esq., Senior Director, American Heart Association
Chattanooga Media


Saw Mill Fire In Lookout Valley Causes $185,000 In Damages

A saw mill fire in Lookout Valley on Sunday morning caused $185,000 in damage. At approximately 7:45 a.m. , calls began coming into Hamilton County 911 about a fire in a saw mill at 3510 Pan Gap Circle in Lookout Valley. Smoke could be seen from downtown Chattanooga when firefighters from Station One on Main Street began to respond.   Upon arrival ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADKINS, PAMELA FAYE  10120 CLAIRE CIRCLE SODDY DAISY, 37379  Age at Arrest: 49 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County EVADING ARREST VIOLATION OF PROBATION(THEFT OF PROPERTY) VIOLATION OF PROBATION(THEFT OF PROPERTY) --- ANDRES, FELIPE  2001 28TH ST CHATTANOOGA, 37404  Age ... (click for more)

Pedestrians Have The Right Of Way - And Response (3)

Often I visit Gold's Gym at Chestnut and 4th Street. I  park in the theater parking lot at Broad and 4th Street.  I depend on the walk signs to get me there safely.  Most days I almost get hit by someone turning left or right coming from the exit ramp off 27 or turning right on 4th street from Chestnut. This happened yesterday as I was almost mowed down by a garbage ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Girls - ‘I Can And I Will’

Every night after the Rodriguez girls went to sleep not that long ago in a grim, rat-infested basement apartment on Chicago’s South Side, their father – a boxing referee who came to America from Puerto Rico -- would kneel beside the girls’ bed and whisper in each child’s ear. Their parents made them sleep hot-dog style, tightly wrapped in the same sheet and pressed together to protect ... (click for more)

Lookouts' Bullpen Failure Leads To Come-From-Behind Win For Suns Sunday

The Lookouts were in control of  Sunday  afternoon's game up until the eighth and ninth inning when the M-Braves scored three runs to beat Chattanooga, 5-4. Chattanooga's offense jumped out to an early lead after being sparked by leadoff hitter Zach Granite. Granite started the home half of the first with a base hit to right field, danced on and off of first base ... (click for more)

Mocs Volleyball Sweeps Chattanooga Classic

The Chattanooga Mocs volleyball team completed their fourth 3-0 sweep of the weekend on Sunday afternoon against California State at Fullerton as part of the Chattanooga Classic – presented by Hampton Inn & Suites - held in Maclellan Gym. The Mocs came out swinging by winning the first set 25-11 and then went on to win 25-18 and 25-17 in sets two and three, respectively. ... (click for more)