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January 08, 2015

International Red Cross Urges U.S. Arm to Cut Tobacco Ties

The American Red Cross is under pressure from its global parent body to stop accepting donations from the tobacco industry, Reuters reports. A top official with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which has not taken tobacco money since 2008, says the U.S. group's continued ties to the industry damage the charity worldwide.

"We have been very clear about the potential reputational damage not just for them but for all of us," said Matthias Schmale, undersecretary general for the global body, policies of which are not binding on national affiliates. The International Red Cross stepped up the pressure last year after rolling out a disease-prevention program with a strong anti-smoking element. Several public-health activist groups also called on the American Red Cross to reject tobacco money in a December 19 letter to its president, Gail McGovern.

Tobacco firms like Altria, Philip Morris, and Reynolds American have given at least $12-million to the American Red Cross and its U.S. affiliates since 2001, according to the charity's tax records and company statements and annual reports. American Red Cross spokeswoman Laura Howe declined to comment on the dispute with the international body but said the U.S. charity is happy to accept any donations that support its work aiding disaster victims.