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Cuddle Up With Cancer: RJR’s Candy-Flavored “Winter Blend” Cigarettes Show Big Tobacco Hasn’t Changed

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 16, 2004

Washington, DC — In the latest versions of its candy-flavored cigarettes, R.J. Reynolds has introduced Camel “Winter Blends” with flavors including “Warm Winter Toffee” and “Winter MochaMint.” Ads for these cigarettes are appearing now in magazines with significant youth readership such as Rolling Stone, Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Elle. The ads feature an attractive young woman in bright green holiday garb and ice skates, cigarette in hand. RJR’s online ads urge visitors to “Celebrate the wonder of Camel’s Winter Blends. Whether you’re skiing down the slopes or cuddling in a cabin.” In fact, it would be more accurate to describe these candy-flavored cigarettes as an invitation to “cuddle up with cancer.” It is outrageous that RJR would warp the holiday spirit, which celebrates life, to tempt children with a product that addicts and kills.

RJR’s latest candy-flavored cigarettes follow the marketing this summer of other candy-flavored Camels, including the coconut and pineapple-flavored Kauai Kolada and the citrus-flavored Twista Lime. Hawai’i Governor Linda Lingle expressed outrage and stated, “Using the name of Kauai and Hawai’i images to market cigarettes to young people is disgusting.” These candy-flavored cigarettes clearly have their greatest appeal to new smokers, 90 percent of whom are teens or younger. Established smokers are unlikely to give up their favorite brands for these new cigarettes, but kids will be tempted to give them a try and many will get hooked. These flavored cigarettes would fit right in on store shelves alongside mint or toffee-flavored ice cream and candy bars.

RJR’s candy-flavored cigarettes are the latest evidence that the tobacco companies are just blowing smoke when they say they have made “profound and permanent” changes in how they do business and don’t market to kids, as they did recently in their opening arguments in the federal government’s lawsuit against the tobacco companies. RJR’s actions underscore why the U.S. Department of Justice should aggressively pursue the federal lawsuit, which seeks to stop tobacco marketing to kids and bring about other fundamental changes in industry practices.

These actions also show why Congress should pass legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products, including the authority to ban candy-flavored cigarettes and crack down on other tobacco marketing to kids. RJR played a key role in defeating the FDA legislation precisely so it could continue to engage in irresponsible marketing such as the candy-flavored cigarettes. It’s no surprise that this is the same company that conducted the infamous “Joe Camel” campaign that used a cartoon character to get millions of kids to start smoking. The tobacco companies clearly will not change their harmful practices unless they are forced to do so.

RJR’s candy-flavored cigarettes are the latest evidence that the tobacco companies have not changed and continue to market in ways that appeal to kids. The Federal Trade Commission reported in October that the tobacco companies in 2002 spent a record $12.5 billion – $34.2 million a day – to market cigarettes. This represents an 85 percent increase since the November 1998 state tobacco settlement, contradicting the tobacco companies’ claim that the settlement significantly restricted their marketing. The FTC report showed that almost two-thirds of cigarette marketing was spent on price discounts, which have the greatest impact on kids, who are the most price-sensitive customers. Tobacco marketing is highly effective at influencing kids. Eighty-two percent of youth smokers (ages 12-17) prefer the three most heavily advertised brands – Philip Morris’ Marlboro, Lorillard’s Newport and RJR’s Camel – compared to less than half of smokers over 25.

While spending record amounts to market cigarettes, the tobacco companies continue to fight proven measures to reduce smoking, such as tobacco tax increases and smoke-free workplace policies. Philip Morris and RJR just spent at least $1.5 million in an unsuccessful effort to defeat an Oklahoma ballot initiative to increase the cigarette tax.

The tobacco companies talk a good game. But RJR’s new candy-flavored cigarettes and the industry’s other recent actions show that the tobacco companies have not changed and continue to put their own profits ahead of the nation’s health.