Ferdinand criticized over tobacco ad

London: Manchester United Footballer Rio Ferdinand has been accused by anti-smoking charities of doing a tobacco advertisement for Asia`s biggest cigarette brand.

Ferdinand, an active supporter of the global children`s charity UNICEF, appears in billboard advertisements and YouTube videoclips in Indonesia that promote Gudang Garam International`s (GGI) Internet-based sports channel, Intersport, which broadcasts Premier League football matches and helps to raise the profile of English football in Asia.

GGI is one of Indonesia`s largest tobacco companies and its cigarettes, which are flavored with spices such as cloves and cinnamon, are particularly popular with children.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the anti-smoking group Ash, said such sponsorship deals were banned in the UK because of concerns that they promoted cigarettes to young people. She called on Ferdinand to dissociate himself from GGI, particularly because of his relationship with UNICEF.

A spokesman for the United player insisted that the footballer, a fervent anti-smoker, was not advertising tobacco for the sports channel, reports said.

It appears that Ferdinand, who is only one of many international football stars to appear in the GGI ads, had been unaware that GGI makes a large amount of its profits from tobacco, or that his image would be used on billboards which carry the cigarette brand logo.

The spokesman said Ferdinand was consulting lawyers about the use of his image in the campaign.