A cigarette company sponsored Westlife concert
Westlife last night extinguished claims they are endorsing smoking by playing concerts sponsored by cigarette companies – burning their squeaky clean image into ashes.
Fans and anti smoking campaigners fumed over news that the pop sensations, who are on a tour of South East Asia, went ahead with a show in Jakarta, Indonesia sponsored by Clas Mild cigarettes.
“I’m calling on Westlife to grow up and to try and have some responsibility for their actions,” said anti-smoking campaigner Dr Luke Clancy of ASH Ireland.
“They will be directly responsible for the deaths of children. I can’t believe Westlife need the money. They shouldn’t be doing it anywhere,” he blasted.
However, speaking to The Star last night, band member Kian Egan (31) moved to extinguish the flames by claiming the group had no knowledge of the cigarette company’s involvement in their appearances and get no cash from the sponsors.
“We were totally unaware that a cigarette company was sponsoring our gig,” he puffed.
“We have nothing to do with it. The sponsors over here put it in place.”
He said Westlife are unaware of plans with sponsors until they arrive at the venue.
“We will not be promoting anything to do with it,” said Egan.
“We just wanna play our concert for our fans and give them a good time.
“We make nothing from the sponsorship. Sponsorship is needed for every gig in Asia. Without it the concerts wouldn’t take place,” he added.
Band member Mark Feehily (31) also moved to stamp out accusations levelled at them for performing concerts sponsored by a cigarette company.
“Whoever thinks we are endorsing smoking should bore off,” he wrote on his Twitter page.
Smoking is a major cause of heart disease and Westlife band member Nicky Byrne (31) and his family recently supported the launch of a televised heart attack awareness campaign for the Irish Heart Foundation.
The pop star’s father Nicky Byrne Senior, died in November 2009 from a heart attack.
“If we can help save one more life through this campaign, it will be worth it,” said Nicky in a statement on the Irish Heart Foundations website.
Massive posters advertising the cigarettes alongside images of the band were used to promote the Asian gig.
Dr Luke Clancy of ASH Ireland said Westlife were “greedy” and he accused them of “destroying lives of young children in Indonesia.”
‘If they never made another penny I suspect they have enough already,” he said.
“I’m blaming people who are grown ups, who are already rich, of being greedy, of getting more money even though they know that this will damage and kill many of the people they influence.
“They couldn’t do it here to take essentially bribes to enslave and addict children in other jurisdictions.”
ASH’s statement is the second damaging blow for Westlife as a result of cigarette companies this week.
The band also lost the right to trademark its own name after losing a European court battle to a German cigarette company.
Judges in Luxembourg ruled that “Westlife” cannot be registered as an EU trademark – because it is too similar to the word “West” – a cigarette brand name that was already trademarked by the German company.
The ruling, which said the tobacco firm had already acquired the brand first, now leaves the band open to counterfeiters across Europe.
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