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Big Tobacco Sued for Joe Camel Ads

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, December 06, 2007 10:16 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Defective and Dangerous Products


Big Tobacco Sued Again


Joe Camel is a thing of the past but his country cousin has drawn the ire of lawyers around the country.

Tobacco advertising to children was banned under a 1998 agreement between state governments and the tobacco industry.

But the November 15th anniversary issue of Rolling Stone magazine features a nine-page ad for Camel cigarettes that targets young smokers in an ad placed by R.J. Reynolds.

The attorneys general of eight states have filed suit against R.J. Reynolds  accusing it of luring children to smoke by using cartoons in its marketing campaign.

"Reynolds is doing exactly what it agreed not to do - use cartoons and distribute brand merchandise," Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said in a statement released by his office.

Gansler said that the 1998 master settlement agreement (MSA) “contains stringent anti-youth marketing provisions and this type of advertising is a blatant violation of the MSA. Nine years after we thought we had seen an end to the predatory marketing practices of the old days, Reynolds continues to use the deadly charm of cartoons and merchandise to entice new customers.”  

Filed in Baltimore Circuit Court the action seeks at least $2.5 million and when joining other states penalties could total more than $100 million. The suits also seek removal of the images from the Rolling Stone websites and promotional material and payment equal to the cost of the magazine ad. It also asks that anti-smoking ads to be put in its place.

Maryland joins Pennsylvania, New York, California, Washington, Ohio, Illinois and Connecticut in filing similar complaints against the worlds second-largest cigarette maker. 

The Camel ads are a compilation of clip art and drawings entitled “Welcome to the farm” and “The farm rocks” which support independent record labels. Besides the nine-page ad, the Camel campaign art is displayed on the cover of an accompanying CD box.

A Reynolds spokesman says the ads offer no cartoons and were actually produced by Rolling Stone and are “editorial content.” Reynolds claims no responsibility for their creation.

The non profit group, Tobacco-Free Kids says it applauds the eight attorneys general actions and says R.J. is launching a campaign to advertise to youth in 2008 for Santa Fe Natural Tobacco, another unit of Reynolds American.

“R.J. Reynolds has refused to make its decision not to market in magazines permanent and made clear that it reserves the right to reverse its new advertising policy at any time” says Matthew Myers president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Cigarette advertising has been especially effective among the young. A 1991 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that more five and six year olds recognize Joe Camel than Mickey Mouse.

Tobacco smoking claims five million lives worldwide annually. By 2020 that number is expected to double with the largest hikes seen in developing nations increasingly the target of cigarette exports.  Public health experts believe 300 million deaths can be cut in half over the next 50 years by curtailing cigarette advertising to adults.

An article published in The Lancet this week finds that advertising bans and large health warnings are among the most effective ways to reduce tobacco-related diseases from smoking.#

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