The Camel cigarette brand has long been the subject of scrutiny over its ad tactics. Its controversial cartoon mascot, Joe Camel, was abandoned in 1997 after a 10-year run as ad watchdogs feared that he would entice youngsters. Back in 2010, the brand got some grief for introducing Camel Orbs, a mint-like tablet that contains ground tobacco with cinnamon or mint flavoring. The tablets could have been easily mistaken for candy by kids, but the product remains on the market today.
Now Camel is getting another round of rage from such folks as the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and a few other health organizations for a new ad that they feel is going against the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement that prohibits tobacco manufacturers from advertising to kids, according to the Associated Press. The group has sent a letter to Tobacco Committee Co-Chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General to ask them to investigate.
The ads in question are for Camel Crush, a cigarette that contains a capsule in its filter that releases a menthol flavor. The print ads ran in the April, May and June issues of 24 different magazines such as People and Sports Illustrated. Camel’s owner, Reynolds American Inc., which has dealt with plenty of lawsuits and complaints about its products over the years, says that it specifically selected print publications with audiences that are more than 85 percent adult in order to avoid this problem, the AP notes. And while that may be true, the group claims that the teen readership of the magazines in question adds up to 12.9 million, according to theCampaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
"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 group wrote in a letter, according to MedicalDaily.com. "The new ad uses bold colors and graphics that highlight the crushable capsule, which could be particularly appealing to young people. R.J. Reynolds has long recognized the potential appeal of such products to youth, noting in one internal document that the ideal youth cigarette should include 'some useful, demonstrable novelty in filter, mouthpiece, package or other aspect of the product system.'"
It shouldn’t come as a shock that the most popular cigarette brand for teens, according to the most recent study in 2010, is Camel. It “gained over 20 percent more market share among 12- to 17-year-olds and over 60 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds” that year, The Huffington Postreports. Overall smoking by teens went down but Camel Crush was believed to be the reason Camel’s market share had gone up.