Red Cross Takes Flak Over Big-Tobacco Money

International parent group pressures US affiliate to stop taking the donations
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2015 4:15 PM CST
Red Cross Takes Flak Over Big-Tobacco Money
Should the American Red Cross accept Big Tobacco's donations?   (Shutterstock)

When a parent tells you to do something, it's advisable to take heed. But a Reuters exclusive shows that despite private pressure from the International Red Cross, the American Red Cross continues to accept donations from Big Tobacco. The IRC says that by taking in tobacco dollars, the ARC risks not only hurting its own reputation, but that of the global brand. Some public health groups point out the hypocrisy of helping suffering people while taking "money from an industry whose product may cause death," as Reuters puts it. An ARC spokeswoman wouldn't comment on strife with the IRC or how much tobacco cash it gets, but she notes they gladly accept any money that allows them to help disaster victims.

The ARC has received at least $12 million since 2001 from tobacco firms like Reynolds American and Philip Morris, according to ARC and tobacco company files reviewed by Reuters. The IRC itself hasn't accepted tobacco money since 2008, and most of its 189 affiliates don't, either; only a handful, including the US, Germany, and Russia, still welcome the funds. The IRC stepped up pressure on the ARC after starting a disease-prevention initiative in 2014 with an anti-smoking platform. A watchdog group rep tells Reuters that by continuing to take the money, the ARC gives Big Tobacco free PR and inadvertently helps it fix its "tarnished image." (Some people disliked how the ARC handled Superstorm Sandy donations.)

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