Statement of Moka Pantages, Charles County, MD

Demonstration at Department of Health and Human Services
February 12, 2003

I would like to start by saying THANK YOU! I am thrilled to be among people who genuinely care about this cause, and are willing to use their voices for those who are unable! More importantly I would like to talk to you about how this framework will affect the youth of the world.

My name is Moka Pantages and I come to you from Charles County Maryland where I direct the CCMYMATU.

For those of you who are not quite sure exactly where that is, let me tell you about it: It’s a quaint little county in southern Maryland where everyone knows everyone, and the boys play football in the fall as the high school girls prepare themselves for the county fair and its annual crowing of “queen nicotina” a young lady who displays strong character, intelligence, talent and grace. She has the honor of being Charles counties queen nicatina all year long.

It’s a place where tobacco is sold at huge annual auctions; it is a place plagued with children who are killing themselves everyday (similar to the rest of the world).

The time I have spent working with a high school coalition of young advocates has taught me so much, and has really opened up my eyes to the evils of the tobacco industry. I have learned that over 80,000 children will begin smoking this year! Eventually contributing to the world’s death toll of over 4 million people dieing each year.

I have learned that these big tobacco companies advertise in purported “adult” magazines like Marie Claire, Rolling Stones, ESPN, Cosmopolitan, and spin, people, and glamour. These adult magazines ARE in public school libraries.

Each of my young advocates will tell you that they do read them and they DO see the advertisements, and The advertisements DO make an impact, regardless of what the tobacco companies want us to believe. WE KNOW that 86 % of teens smoke the three most heavily advertised brands! We know this. It’s not a coincidence. It is the power of the tobacco companies spreading disease among the world’s children!

And the real horror is that these underhanded manipulative tactics are supposedly regulated in the United States. They are regulated, can you for a second just imagine what is happening to children abroad. To children who are completely unprotected. This is why we are supporting the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It will protect, and ensure that a company who says “ today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential customer” will soon be contained and held accountable. We must support this endeavor and keep our children safe.