The American Legacy Foundation and a group of health and anti-smoking groups has called upon R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company to remove its Camel No. 9 cigarettes from the market, on the grounds that the tobacco company should not target particular populations for death and disease.
According to a letter sent from the American Legacy Foundation and 48 co-signers to R.J. Reynolds chairman Susan Ivey: "As public health and women's health leaders, we are incensed by your latest shameful new cigarette brand, Camel No. 9, and your offensive ad campaign for this brand. This campaign is nothing more than a veiled attempt to sell more cigarettes to girls and young women, putting them at grave risk for disease and a premature death. In the wake of the Camel No. 9 launch, more than 40 Members of Congress have called on women's magazines to refuse cigarette advertising aimed at young women. We join their appeal and go a step further in calling for Camel No. 9's complete removal from the marketplace."
The letter concludes: "As individuals and organizations dedicated to improving the health and welfare of our citizens, we call on you to stop enticing our nation's young women and girls to serve as your replacement smokers. Stop designing products targeting particular populations for death and disease. Remove Camel No. 9 from the market today."
The co-signing organizations include the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.
The Rest of the Story
And the reason why Camel No. 9 cigarettes, with virtually no market share among female adolescents, should be removed the market but all other Camel brands, which command 5% of the female youth market, should not be removed from the market is...?
And the reason why Camel No. 9 cigarettes, with virtually no market share among female adolescents, should be removed the market but Marlboro cigarettes, which command 40% of the female youth market, should not be removed from the market is...?
And the reason why Camel No. 9 cigarettes, with virtually no market share among female adolescents, should be removed the market but Newport cigarettes, which command 12% of the female youth market, should not be removed from the market is...?
Do you mean to tell me that Camel No. 9 advertisements entice teenage girls to smoke but Marlboro ads do not?
Do you mean to tell me that Camel No. 9 advertisements entice teenage girls to smoke but other Camel ads do not?
Do you mean to tell me that Camel No. 9 advertisements entice teenage girls to smoke but Newport ads do not?
I apologize, but the rationale for selectively calling on the removal of Camel No. 9 cigarettes from the market escapes me. If anything, wouldn't we want to call for the removal of the products that are actually enticing, addicting, and eventually, killing our girls and young women? Camel No. 9 is currently the least of the offenders. Marlboro is the worst. Why should Marlboro go unscathed while Camel No. 9 faces this vicious, coordinated attack?
Once again, I get the feeling that anti-smoking groups are taking the politically easy action of going after the least significant aspect of the problem. Why not go after a brand that is not currently the problem, while ignoring and essentially condoning the effects of brand which are actually enticing girls to smoke? This is kind of like banning smoking in cars but allowing parents to smoke as much as they want, for as long as they want, around their children in the home.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not calling for the removal of all cigarettes smoked by youths from the market. In fact, I'm not calling on the removal of any cigarettes from the market. To me, they are all the same. They all kill people. They all use advertising. Most of them are successful in getting youths to smoke their brands. They all target specific groups in the population.
It was never clear to me, by the way, why targeting one particular group for death and disease is worse than targeting some other demographic group. Or why targeting the general population for death and disease would somehow make us feel better. Frankly, if cigarette companies only targeted males, it wouldn't make me feel much better.
I actually agree with R.J. Reynolds when it argues that it should be targeting whatever adult customers it wants to. No cigarette companies should be targeting youths. But if customers are of legal age, I don't see why they should not be able to go after those customers. It certainly is their First Amendment right to do so.
I don't see the problem as being the targeting of any particular adult customers. I see the problem as being that cigarettes are a deadly product. The gender and race/ethnicity of the people dying are not what makes it a tragic situation. What makes it a tragic situation is that people are dying.
I agree that the targeting of youths is unacceptable. But it makes no sense to me to single out Camel No. 9 for its appeal to youths when we know for a fact that Marlboros are by far the cigarettes that have the greatest appeal to youths. And Newports are the brand with the second greatest appeal to youths. In fact, non-Camel No. 9 cigarettes are currently the brand with the third greatest appeal to youths.
While actions like this one by the American Legacy Foundation gain headlines and sound great on the surface, what they are actually doing, I fear, is to frame the problem as being one only of extremes. The problem is being framed essentially as the use of the color pink in advertising. This is a very shallow definition of the problem. There is a wide variety of advertising that appeals to youths. Clearly, Marlboro ads have been the most successful; Newport ads have been tremendously successful; and Camel ads - without the pink color - have been extremely successful in recruiting youth smokers.
It is this kind of shallow thinking and framing of the problem of cigarette use that is reflected in the legislation being supported by most of these same groups: legislation which concerns itself with banning chocolate, strawberry, and cherry flavorings - which are not being used at all - but allowing menthol - which is enticing millions of youths and adults to smoke - to remain untouched.
This approach makes no sense to me. It is basically window dressing. It gains media attention, sounds great on the surface, and allows these groups to say that they are doing something about the problem. However, if you look below the surface, you'll see that these are shallow approaches that really fail to address the underlying problem. But they feel good and they are politically popular.
This tale of protest against Camel No. 9 cigarettes is certainly full of sound and fury, but I'm afraid that it really signifies nothing.