Country Singer at Center of Skoal Flap

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Associated Press
Friday, August 26, 2005

NASHVILLE, Aug. 25 -- The state attorney general wants the country singer who made the song "Redneck Woman" a hit to stop "glamorizing" the use of chewing tobacco at her concerts.

Tennessee officials said Gretchen Wilson can be seen on concert venues' jumbo screens pulling a can of Skoal from her pocket while performing her song "Skoal Ring." That may violate the 1998 settlement between states and tobacco companies forbidding tobacco ads targeting young people, said Attorney General Paul Summers.

"Many young people attend your concerts and purchase your music and T-shirts," Summers wrote in a letter he sent to Wilson on Thursday. "Because your actions strongly influence the youth in your audience . . . I ask you to take steps to warn young people of negative health effects of smokeless tobacco use."

Calls to Wilson's representatives at her music label, Sony Music Nashville, were not immediately returned.

Wilson won wide acclaim and a Grammy with her debut single, "Redneck Woman."

The title "Skoal Ring" refers to the wear mark left by carrying a can of chewing tobacco in the pocket of bluejeans. In the final verse, Wilson sings that she gets turned on by the taste of smokeless tobacco on her man's lips.

The landmark $206 billion tobacco settlement "provided that advertisements such as this would be and should be prohibited," Summers said.

The U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., which makes Skoal, signed on to the tobacco settlement and agreed not to sponsor concerts under any brand names or enter into any sort of agreement with an artist to display or make reference to their products.

U.S. Smokeless Tobacco does not have an agreement with Wilson or any artists to promote its products, company spokesman Mike Bazinet said. Summers said his office is also contacting the company about the use of its products at Wilson's concerts.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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