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State Attorneys General Should Investigate R.J. Reynolds and Rolling Stone Magazine For Linking New Cigarette Ad to Cartoon

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 26, 2007

As reported today by The New York Times, the November 15, 2007, issue of Rolling Stone magazine includes what appears to be a giant, nine-page ad for R.J. Reynolds’ Camel cigarettes that features a four-page cartoon foldout, despite a prohibition in the 1998 state tobacco settlement on the use of cartoons to market cigarettes. We urge state attorneys general to immediately investigate this ad as a possible violation of both the tobacco settlement’s prohibition on the use of cartoons and its prohibition on targeting youth in the marketing of tobacco products. It is difficult to see this nine-page spread as anything but an effort by R.J. Reynolds, aided and abetted by Rolling Stone, to push the legal limits and get around the tobacco settlement’s explicit ban on the use of cartoons to market cigarettes

Rolling Stone has told the media that the four-page cartoon foldout is “editorial content” produced by the magazine despite the fact it is surrounded by and indistinguishable from R.J. Reynolds’ Camel ad. This is a meaningless distinction to the magazine’s readers, including some 1.5 million youth, who will see the nine-page spread as one giant ad for Camel cigarettes (estimate on the number of youth readers, aged 12-17, comes from the magazine’s media kit. Rolling Stone may claim that the four-page cartoon spread is not part of the Camel ad that surrounds it, but the cartoon’s content, layout and placement make it appear to be an integral part of the ad. That can’t be an accident. Why would the spread begin and end with a Surgeon General’s warning if it wasn’t a cigarette ad?

The end result of this nine-page spread is exactly what the tobacco settlement sought to stop, which is the use of cartoon characters to market cigarettes. It is outrageous and irresponsible for Rolling Stone to create a layout that associates cartoons with cigarettes. It is hard to believe that this not intentional as the tobacco company involved, R.J. Reynolds, is most notorious for using cartoon characters to market cigarettes to children with the now-banned Joe Camel.

The nine-page spread appears in the “The Fortieth Anniversary” issue of Rolling Stone and can be viewed by following this link.

For R.J. Reynolds, it is business as usual given the company’s repeated efforts since the tobacco settlement to get around the prohibition on marketing to children. As the U.S. Department of Justice stated in its racketeering lawsuit against the tobacco companies, “The courts have found that RJR is a serial violator of the MSA [Master Tobacco Settlement].”

The settlement prohibition on the use of cartoons to market cigarettes states, “no Participating Manufacturer may use or cause to be used any Cartoon in the advertising, promoting, packaging or labeling of Tobacco Products.” The settlement’s “Prohibition on Youth Targeting” states, “No Participating Manufacturer may take any action, directly or indirectly, to target Youth within any Settling State in the advertising, promotion or marketing of Tobacco Products.”

The four-page cartoon foldout in the Rolling Stone-R.J. Reynolds spread includes numerous cartoon drawings of animals, monsters and images from outer space. It is not the only aspect of the spread that clearly appeals to kids:

  • Another page features an image of a notebook similar to those often carried by high school students with the title “Indie Rock Universe;” doodles of a guitar, spaceships and other images a bored student might draw; and the phrase, “an alternate dimension where everyone wears Black Converse.”
  • The R.J. Reynolds ad that surrounds the cartoon announces a “collaboration between Camel and independent artists and record labels,” called “The Farm,” that will promote music online and through events across the nation.

R.J. Reynolds’ recent marketing campaigns that appeal to youth have included:

  • In January, RJR launched a new version of its Camel cigarettes, Camel No. 9, that it claimed was targeted at women, but clearly appeals to girls as well. Marketing for Camel No. 9 include new packaging – shiny black with flowery pink and teal borders; ads in fashion magazines popular with girls, including Vogue, Glamour and InStyle; and promotional giveaways including berry-flavored lip balm, cell phone jewelry, and novelty pink and black purses. An editorial in the Oregonian newspaper called Camel No. 9 “Barbie Camel.”
  • In recent years, RJR has also introduced candy and fruit-flavored versions of Camel with names that included Kauai Kolada, Twista Lime, Warm Winter Toffee and Mocha Mint. RJR has also marketed alcohol-flavored Camel cigarettes. Under investigation for violating the tobacco settlement, RJR in October 2006 entered into an agreement with the attorneys general to stop marketing candy, fruit and alcohol-flavored cigarettes.
  • Under pressure from state attorneys general, RJR in December 2005 ended a promotion called “Drinks On Us” in which the company mailed customers celebrating their birthdays a promotional package that contained six drink coasters, mixed drink recipes and slogans encouraging excessive drinking.