Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said a major tobacco company’s sponsorship of City of Culture events undermines the success of the year.
Ms Anderson was speaking after it emerged that Japan International Tobacco (JTI), the parent company of the Gallaher group, is a partner sponsor of some City of Culture events, including an Apprentice Boys’ event next month.
The MEP, who has campaigned for tougher regulation of the tobacco industry at the European Parliament, said she was disappointed by the development and suggested it sends out the wring message.
“I am disappointed that the Culture Company has as one of its Partner Sponsors, JTI, one of the largest tobacco companies in the world. The fact that this company’s products, if used exactly as the company intends, will kill 50% of its users should have informed the Culture Company in its determination, which should have been rejection of sponsorship.”
Ms Anderson said tobacco products kill 7,000 people across Ireland each year.
“I do not believe that this is the type of ‘culture’ we should be promoting and, reflecting on all of the tremendously enjoyable events that have portrayed this city in a positive light, I don’t believe that this sponsorship from JTI was necessary.
“The sponsorship of an event organised under the auspices of the 2013 Derry City of Culture undermines all the fantastic successes this year has brought to the region.
“JTI should absolutely not be associated in anyway in sponsoring any event coming under the City of Culture banner,” she said.
Paul Williams, Head of Corporate Affairs, JTI UK, denied that the sponsorship of the Apprentice Boys’ event promotes smoking.
“Gallaher’s partnership with the City of Culture does not promote smoking or tobacco brands – it’s about a local company and its employees supporting the arts.
“Corporate philanthropy is how we describe our choice to contribute to the societies in which we do business, in a way that is meaningful, considered, voluntary, and outside of our commercial operations. We support arts, cultural and charitable institutions on many different levels and believe contributing to our local communities, where our employees live and work, is the right thing for any business to do.”