Concerts provoke GASP protest

Local protests by antismoking groups appear to be on the rise. Some of the most effective salvos have been fired from the Massachusetts chapter of GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution), reports staff writer Laurent Belsie. The group's latest protest involves the ''Lucky Strike Live'' concert series that begins in Boston today. The group has complained to the local nightclub that is scheduling the concert series.

The concert is aimed at young people and is ''another attempt by the tobacco industry to link smoking with pleasurable activities, in this case music and dance,'' GASP spokesman Edward L. Sweda said.

But such events are aimed at smokers, not nonsmokers, says Robert J. Rukeyser , public affairs director of American Brands Inc. The firm has seen sales of its cigarette packs decline 5 to 7 percent annually for a number of years and is aiming its new low-tar Lucky Strikes at male smokers aged 21 to 35.

Increasingly, cigarette companies are turning to sponsorship of promotional events to push their brands, says John F. Banzhaf III, executive director and chief counsel of the antismoking group called Action on Smoking and Health. But only in the past year or so have local groups begun protesting these events, he says. ''It is a healthy thing that we are beginning to stand up and question this.''

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