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Leading Health Groups Urge State AGs to Investigate R.J. Reynolds’ New Magazine Ads for Camel Cigarettes

May 30, 2013


WASHINGTON, DC – Five leading public health organizations are calling on state attorneys general to investigate whether R.J. Reynolds’ new magazine advertising campaign for Camel cigarettes violates the state tobacco settlement’s prohibition on targeting youth.

The ads, for Camel Crush cigarettes, have appeared in the April, May or June issues of at least 24 magazines, including several with large teen readerships. This is the first time R.J. Reynolds has advertised a cigarette brand in magazines since December 2007, when the company suspended its magazine advertising while facing public and Congressional scrutiny and lawsuits by nine states for engaging in marketing that targeted kids.

The health groups are urging the state attorneys general to investigate whether the ad campaign violates a provision of the 1998 settlement that prohibits tobacco companies from taking “any action, directly or indirectly, to target Youth within any Settling State in the advertising, promotion or marketing of Tobacco Products.”

“We believe that R.J. Reynolds’ new ad campaign does directly or indirectly target youth because the entire ad buy is reaching millions of youth and several of the individual magazines have large youth readerships,” the health groups stated in a letter to the Tobacco Committee Co-Chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General.

The groups involved are the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Legacy, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and American Lung Association.

Publicly available data from GfK MRI, a consumer research firm, shows a total teen readership (12-17 years old) of 12.9 million for just nine of the magazines involved – Entertainment Weekly, ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, People, Glamour, InStyle, US Weekly and Vogue. The total teen readership for all 24 magazines would be millions more.

Several of these magazines individually have large teen readerships, including People with nearly 3.2 million teen readers, ESPN the Magazine with more than 2 million teen readers, and Sports Illustrated with more than 1.7 million teen readers.

The health groups’ letter points out that R.J. Reynolds’ has a long history of being investigated and legally sanctioned for targeting kids with marketing for Camel cigarettes:

  • From 1987 to 1997, R.J. Reynolds marketed Camel cigarettes with a cartoon character, Joe Camel, including through magazine ads. Studies showed that Camel’s share of the youth cigarette market soared after the campaign began, and Joe Camel at one point was nearly as recognizable to 6-year-olds as Mickey Mouse. R.J. Reynolds finally ended the Joe Camel campaign in 1997 in the face of lawsuits, Congressional scrutiny, a Federal Trade Commission investigation and public outrage.

  • In 2001, the State of California sued R.J. Reynolds, alleging that the company’s placement of cigarette ads in magazines with large numbers of teen readers violated the settlement’s prohibition on targeting youth. In 2002, a California judge found R.J. Reynolds liable, a ruling upheld by a California Court of Appeal. Under a 2004 settlement of the case, R.J. Reynolds agreed to restrictions on its advertising in magazines with large teen readerships and paid $17.25 million in civil penalties and costs.

  • In 2007, R.J. Reynolds faced criticism from public health and women’s organizations, members of Congress and newspaper editorials after it introduced Camel No. 9 cigarettes targeted to teenage girls and young women. U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) called Camel No. 9 “the pink version of Joe Camel.”

  • In November 2007, R.J. Reynolds again faced criticism for a large Camel ad in Rolling Stone that was wrapped around a cartoon insert. Nine states sued the company, alleging that it violated the MSA’s prohibition on the use of cartoons in tobacco advertising.

Amidst controversy over the Camel No. 9 and Rolling Stone ads, R.J. Reynolds in late 2007 announced that it would suspend its cigarette advertising in magazines.

Camel is one of the three most popular cigarette brands among youth smokers, with 15.1 percent preferring Camel, according to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Camel Crush is an extension of the brand with a capsule in the filter that releases menthol when crushed.

“R.J. Reynolds cannot be allowed to get away with yet another marketing campaign that entices America’s kids into a deadly addiction,” the health groups’ letter states.