Kelly Clarkson gets rare mention in The Economist

You wouldn’t normally expect to find the affairs of Kelly Clarkson being discussed in The Economist magazine. The august weekly ran a small piece last week about the tobacco issue in Indonesia, using Clarkson’s sponsorship blunder to highlight the failure of government regulation.

The article starts out well enough, setting the scene for a discussion about the tobacco problem in Indonesia and what might be done about it:

Life is hard for Indonesia’s anti-tobacco lobby. More and more teenagers are smoking; tobacco is still advertised on television and at concerts and sporting events; and the police fail to enforce even the most basic smoking bans. Some 70% of Indonesian men older than 20 smoke, and 400,000 Indonesians die each year from smoking-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organisation.

Given this beginning, it’s a little strange that the article then morphs into an attack on the “anti-smoking lobby”. You get the impression that those who opposed Clarkson’s tobacco advertising served only to boost ticket sales to her concert and provide publicity for the tobacco sponsors. I’m not sure how The Economist knows what effect the controversy had on ticket sales, but they’re certainly right that it gave extra attention to the cigarette brand involved. It also forced Clarkson to drop her tobacco sponsorship, removing the brand logo from TV ads and billboards promoting the tour. It also embarrassed the former “American Idol” star into making a public statement condemning smoking, and drew attention across the world that will help to make other celebrities think twice before accepting tobacco dollars in future, especially in Indonesia.

The Economist fails to mention any of that. Instead, it complains that the anti-smoking lobby “kept hypocritically mum” about a tobacco-sponsored badminton event in Indonesia that was held around the same time. I can’t understand the logic here; the anti-smoking lobby (ie health experts, doctors etc)  is criticised for boosting sales and publicity for the Clarkson concert, and also of being hypocritical for not causing the same fuss over the sports event. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t, apparently. Either way it’s clear the issue only received the attention it did because Clarkson is a minor US celebrity; the badminton event would not have gained the attention of the Associated Press and Perez Hilton. The anti-smoking lobby can’t be blamed for the skewed priorities of US journalists and bloggers.

The main opposition to the Clarkson tobacco sponsorship came from an alliance including the Indonesian National Commission on Child Protection, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and the US-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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