A group of Duluth leaders have joined with the American Lung Association over concern that a big tobacco company is targeting the Northland for potential tobacco sales.
It started when two Duluth non-profits got an email from "Mr. Susan Works," a marketing company based in New York and Berlin Germany, inviting them to be part of a research focus group.
Altria, a parent company of Philip Morris; one of the largest tobacco companies in the united states, hired the marketing company to conduct a study in Duluth to, apparently, take a closer look at what people feel might be getting in the way of their attaining "the American Dream."
In the email sent to the non-profits, the company asked for non-profits to participate in a workshop titled "the diminishing middle."
American Lung Association leaders say the email triggered a red flag.
"Altria is a company that could care less about the health and well-being of the middle class. What they care about is how they can market to the middle class and we don't want Duluth to be a test site for that information gathering for an industry for the future addiction of our children," said Pat McKone, Regional Senior Director of the American Lung Association.
The Lung Association alerted other non-profit and health agencies in the Northland to the effort, which they felt was a ruse, and that the company just wanted to gather information to make it easier for them to market tobacco products.
The goal is to alert the public to this potential ruse on the part of a tobacco company so people fully understand before answering any questions from Altria.