Nov. 27 2007
The Winston-Salem Journal reported today that the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company has said that it will not advertise its cigarette brands in newspapers and consumer magazines next year. R.J. Reynolds’ announcement looks like damage control intended to deflect growing criticism and legal scrutiny of its cigarette advertising that appeals to children. There is nothing to stop R.J. Reynolds from reversing this decision or from continuing to engage in other forms of marketing that impact kids.
In recent months, R.J. Reynolds has faced withering criticism from newspaper editorials, public health organizations and members of Congress for its advertising of Camel No. 9 cigarettes in ways that appeal to women and girls. The company’s ads have appeared frequently in fashion magazines. U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) deserves credit for leading more than 40 members of Congress who have called on women’s magazines to stop running cigarette advertising.
This week, The New York Times reported about a new R.J. Reynolds’ Camel ad in Rolling Stone magazine that came wrapped around a four-page cartoon insert that RJR and Rolling Stone claimed was “editorial content” separate from the ad. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has urged state attorneys general to investigate the Rolling Stone package as a possible violation of the 1998 state tobacco settlement’s prohibition on the use of cartoons to market cigarettes. In recent years, state attorneys general have forced R.J. Reynolds’ to stop marketing candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes after the company repeatedly ran magazine ads for flavored Camel cigarettes with names like Kauai Kolada, Twista Lime and Warm Winter Toffee.
R.J. Reynolds’ suspension of magazine ads will leave it plenty of avenues to continue marketing that appeals to kids. While magazine ads are the most visible and egregious forms of cigarette marketing, magazine ads make up just a small part of the $13.1 billion spent on cigarette marketing in 2005, the most recent year for which the Federal Trade Commission has reported such data. Much of tobacco marketing is now spent on retail marketing and price promotions that also appeal to kids.
R.J. Reynolds’ announcement shows once again that tobacco companies will change only when faced with a public outcry and the threat of legal action. It also underscores why Congress must pass legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products, including the authority to crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids. Until the FDA has the authority to curtail harmful tobacco marketing practices, the tobacco companies will continue to have far too much leeway to market their deadly products in ways that addict our children.