Groups: Camel cigarettes still targeting kids

Health groups say new magazine ads are wooing teen smokers, which would violate a 1998 agreement banning the practice.

By Jason Notte May 31, 2013 4:05PM
Camel advertisement (© R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. via Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids)Joe Camel is long dead, but cigarette industry critics say his spirit is still telling American kids to smoke 'em if they've got 'em.

The American Heart Association, American Lung Association, The Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids and several other health groups are asking at least two state attorneys to investigate a new Camel cigarette ad campaign that's appeared in more than two dozen magazines.

The issue is that Camel's maker, Reynolds American (RAI), is not only hawking Camel Crush cigarettes that let smokers crush a capsule in the filter to release more flavor, but are advertising it in magazines with large numbers of teenage readers, which would violate the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement prohibiting such ads.

The groups charge that the ad in question (pictured) ran in at least nine magazines -- Entertainment Weekly, ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, People, Glamour, InStyle, US Weekly and Vogue -- with a combined 12.9 million readers ages 12-17, according to consumer research firm GfK MRI. That's a bit of an issue when Camel is one of the three most popular cigarette brands among young smokers, with the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health finding that 15.1% of underage smokers prefer Camels.

Reynolds American spokesman Richard Smith told The Associated Press that his company believes the ads are in full compliance with the settlement and that it advertises in only magazines with an adult readership of 85% or higher.

That claim might stand on firmer ground if Reynolds hadn't already been forced to pull ads from Rolling Stone in 2007 after trying to link Camels to indie rock labels through notebook-style cartoon scribbles. That same year, Reynolds came under fire as ads for Camel No. 9s appeared in fashion magazines with fake editorial that, according to 2010 study published in the journal Pediatrics, provided "credible evidence that the Camel No. 9 cigarette advertising campaign has targeted under-aged girls."

There's also the not-so-small matter of Joe Camel, the brand's former cartoon mascot who, during his run from 1987 to 1997, was almost as recognizable to small children as Mickey Mouse.

The problem is that while tobacco ads are banned from the radio, television and billboards, magazines are still fair game as long as tobacco companies like Reynolds, Lorillard (LO) and Altria's (MO) Philip Morris play by the tobacco settlement's rules. As the latest Camel ad illustrates, those rules leave little margin for error.

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Jun 1, 2013 2:32PM
Witch hunt trying to squeeze more money from smokers by tying up the courts and raising prices to support this witch hunt.
Jun 1, 2013 10:05AM

Carrie Nation has been reborn to fight another day...Eventually the Religious Wrong, will get everyone cowering in the corner....

When they burn the Last Witch...

Jun 2, 2013 4:13AM

The tobacco companies must be doing something that works because I am seeing more twenty somethings smoking than any other age group.


I think this is still the age group that saw the Joe Camel ads when they were kids.


It just never ceases to amaze how smoking can pick up new addicts.  Why people would endure the initial coughing and wooziness and horrible taste until FINALLY they become addicted enough to smoke with relative ease is just beyond comprehension.  


Smoking is such an arcane thing to do.  When I see people smoking, I immediately have such a negative opinion of them.  They immediately appear uneducated, dirty, stinky, and poor.  Who would choose that kind of image for themselves?

May 31, 2013 11:19PM
Reynolds, more than Altria or Lorillard, have always tried to push it as far as they can.
Jun 2, 2013 3:03PM
Release more flavor?  I didn't realize lungs had tastebuds.
Jun 1, 2013 1:02AM

Grow up ffs, my kids read those magazines too and are not swayed by the cigarette add in the middle. My kids have seen first hand how hard giving up smoking has been for me and both agree that it smells bad. I grew up seeing Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man everywhere yet neither of those things prompted me to smoke. I started smoking only after being forced to sit through some horrible black and white movie with a lady smoking a very skinny cigarette with a long cigarette holder which is why I started on Virginia Slims.

Jun 2, 2013 3:39PM

Gosh Mikey, you probably don't smoke do you....


Do you invest in Tobacco Companies ??

Very good investments.

Jun 1, 2013 10:43AM
If corporations keep selling guns to crazies and cigarettes to our children, they will not have anyone to sell to in the future.
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