May. 22 2007
Washington, DC — In October 2006, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company entered into a settlement with state attorneys general to stop marketing candy, fruit and alcohol-flavored cigarettes. The states had asserted that RJR’s marketing of flavored cigarettes violated the 1998 state tobacco settlement’s prohibition on targeting youth.
Now, barely seven months later, RJR is already trying to circumvent the settlement by introducing new flavored cigarettes in yet another marketing scheme that is likely to appeal to children. RJR has taken out a lavish ad in Cosmopolitan, a magazine with a high youth readership, to introduce its Camel Signature Blends cigarettes that come in Robust, Mellow, Frost and Infused flavors. RJR’s web site describes Robust as “similar to notes found on cocoa and espresso”; Mellow as “accented with toasted honey”; Frost as “Fine Asian Mint… while the creamy finish delivers a smooth, buttery aftertaste”; and Infused as offering “notes of Citrus” and “a sweet apple-like flavor.” These products are also being advertised and sold in stores. While RJR claims its web site is age-restricted, kids will be fully exposed to the magazine and store ads that highlight the tempting new cigarette names and claims of “distinctive flavor.” Click here to view mages from the Cosmopolitan ad and store advertising.
RJR’s new flavored cigarettes are the latest in a long line of tobacco industry efforts to circumvent specific restrictions on their behavior and continue to engage in marketing that appeals to children. While marketing restrictions such as those in the 1998 tobacco settlement have had some positive impact, the tobacco companies are constantly finding new ways to market their deadly and addictive products that appeal to children. That is why it is critical that Congress pass pending legislation to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comprehensive authority over the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. This legislation would ban flavored cigarettes once and for all and impose other specific steps to restrict marketing to children, such as limiting tobacco ads in stores and magazines with high youth readership to black-and-white text only. Importantly, this legislation would grant the FDA the comprehensive and flexible authority it needs to take action against new forms of tobacco marketing that appeal to kids or mislead the public.
While RJR will claim that its new flavored cigarettes are aimed at adult smokers, just as it did when it introduced its earlier candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes, studies have indicated that flavored cigarettes have their greatest appeal to young, new smokers. A national survey released in 2005 by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute found that 20 percent of smokers aged 17 to 19 said they had used flavored cigarettes in the past 30 days, while just six percent of smokers over the age of 25 did. A November 2005 study by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded, “Flavored cigarettes can promote youth initiation and help young occasional smokers to become daily smokers by masking the natural harshness and taste of tobacco smoke and increasing the acceptability of a toxic product.”
RJR’s continued marketing of flavored cigarettes is further evidence that the tobacco companies have not changed and will not change until forced to do so. Since the 1998 settlement, overall tobacco marketing has nearly doubled to a massive $13.4 billion in 2005 – more than $36 million a day – according to the Federal Trade Commission’s most recent reports on tobacco marketing.
RJR, the company that once marketed cigarettes to kids with the Joe Camel cartoon character, has been especially egregious in continuing to market in ways that appeal to children. RJR is currently marketing its new Camel No. 9 cigarette, which the company claims is targeted at women, but also clearly appeals to girls with its flowery pink and teal imagery and slick ads in magazines popular with teenage girls, such as Vogue, Glamour and Cosmopolitan. The Oregonian newspaper called the new cigarette “Barbie Camel.”
Before it was forced to stop by the state attorneys general, RJR marketed candy and fruit-flavored Camel cigarettes with names like Kauai Kolada, Twista Lime and Warm Winter Toffee and alcohol-flavored cigarettes with names like Blackjack Gin, ScrewDriver Slots and Snake Eyes Scotch. In 2005, RJR stopped a cigarette promotion called “Drinks on us” after attorneys general charged that aspects of it, such as coasters imprinted with drink recipes and slogans encouraging excessive drinking, would encourage smoking and binge drinking by young people. In its racketeering lawsuit against the tobacco companies, the U.S. Department of Justice in 2005 described RJR as a “serial violator” of the 1998 tobacco settlement.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. It kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs the nation more than $96 billion in health care bills every year. Every day, another 1,200 Americans die from tobacco use and more than 1,000 kids become regular smokers. This deadly toll will continue to mount so long as tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds remain unregulated and free to engage in marketing that appeals to kids. Congress has debated the issue of FDA authority over tobacco products for nearly a decade. It is time to finish the debate and take action to protect children and save lives.