Tuesday, December 04, 2007

American Legacy Foundation Calls for Removal of Camel No. 9 Cigarettes from Shelves, But Apparently Has No Problem with Brands that are Killing People

In a November 27 press release, the American Legacy Foundation called for a national recall of all Camel No. 9 cigarettes, based on the contention that this new cigarette brand is targeting teenage girls and young women.

The American Legacy Foundation is demanding that R.J. Reynolds remove all Camel No. 9 cigarettes from store shelves and discontinue selling this brand of cigarettes. However, Legacy is not similarly calling on any other cigarette brands to be pulled off store shelves.

According to the press release: "Following months of pressure from public health organizations, groups dedicated to protecting and improving women’s health, and negative press, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company has announced its decision to discontinue print advertising in 2008 of its cigarette brands. This announcement is long overdue, especially for America’s teenage girls and young women, who have been the recent targets of Reynolds’ pervasive advertising for its new Camel No. 9 brand. With its stylish packaging and advertising featuring black, bright pink and teal colors, and a name evocative of women’s fashion icons, Camel No. 9 is plainly targeted to teen-age girls and young women. Now, the company should do the only responsible thing and follow suit by pulling the brand off the shelves."

The press release goes on to say that: "Given the fact that smoking continues to be the nation’s leading preventable cause of death, the danger of a product specifically targeted to young women cannot be underscored."

The Rest of the Story

The rationale behind the American Legacy Foundation's response to the announcement that R.J. Reynolds is going to discontinue magazine advertising of cigarettes in 2008 is baffling to me. Why respond by demanding that this particular cigarette brand -- which so far has not been documented to have effectively recruited any substantial proportion of teenage smokers -- be removed from the market, while all other brands -- which are smoked by literally 1.3 million teenage girls -- remain on the market?

If the danger of a product targeted to young women cannot be underscored and the appropriate response is to pull the product off the market, then why should Camel No. 9 be removed from the market while the cigarette brands smoked by almost all of the other 1.3 million adolescent girls who smoke be allowed to continue to addict them, and ultimately, to kill many of them?

Wouldn't a more productive response have been to demand that all cigarette companies and all brands follow R.J. Reynolds' lead and discontinue advertising in magazines? If Reynolds' decision to stop advertising Camel No. 9 cigarettes in magazines was appropriate, then why is it appropriate for all other cigarette brands to continue to advertise in magazines?

I just don't understand the logic here. It is terribly inconsistent and it seems to me, very hypocritical.

Is this the message that Legacy really wants to send to the public? That it is OK to addict our teenage girls and young women and increase their risk for lung cancer and heart disease, as long as you do not use the colors pink and teal?

After all, let's look at who the true culprits are. If we are truly concerned about the recruitment of girls and young women to cigarette use, then the primary concerns should be the marketing and availability of Marlboro, Newport, other Camel brands (besides No. 9), and Basic, Kool, and Parliament cigarettes. These are the cigarettes that are addicting our nation's girls.

The most problematic brand is Marlboro, which is the cigarette of choice for 51.0% of teenage girls. Second is Newport, smoked by 23.2%. Third is Camel at 7.4% (and most of these girls are not smoking Camel No. 9, but are smoking other Camel varieties).

Also problematic is the marketing of Kool, which has captured 2.6% of the female youth market, Parliament at 2.0%, and Basic at 1.6%.

If we have concluded that it is unacceptable to market cigarettes in a way that targets teenage girls, then why demand that Camel No. 9 be removed from the market, but allow Marlboro, Newport, other Camel brands, Basic, Kool, and Parliament to remain on the market?

If anything, the way that this Legacy campaign is framing the issue of tobacco marketing to teenage girls is counter-productive. It focuses attention on a single campaign, which apparently is problematic because it uses pink and teal, but it diverts attention away from the multiple marketing campaigns that for many years have been effectively recruiting girls and young women to smoke their brands.

Pulling Camel No. 9 cigarettes from the market will have essentially no impact on the use of tobacco by young females. Only a small proportion of teenage girls are smoking this brand to begin with. However, putting an end to the magazine advertising of all cigarette brands which are currently smoked by teenage girls would have an impact.

Addressing only a miniscule slice of the problem risks losing public attention to the actual problem - which is that cigarettes are marketed to youths, period.

This is not just a problem of Camel No. 9. It is a problem of cigarettes. If tobacco companies do not market to youths, they are going to lose market share. That is not acceptable to anyone within these companies with any knowledge or understanding of business.

The American Legacy Foundation's press release is an example of a larger concern that I have noted over the past several years. The tobacco control movement seems to be losing a broader perspective on the issue of tobacco use in our society. It seems to be developing a very narrow perspective, in which only the most politically hot and politically advantageous issues are highlighted.

If the American Legacy Foundation is only going to condemn Camel No. 9 for targeting girls, then that's a shame. I, however, am not limited in my view of the problem such that I only see Camel No. 9 as the cause of our girls' and young women's health woes.

If we're going to call for a recall of Camel No. 9, then to be consistent, we must also call for a recall of Marlboros, Newports, and all other Camel brands.

I am not calling for such a recall. However, I am calling for some degree of consistency in the positions taken by tobacco control groups. Their favored policies are becoming so flimsy that you can poke a gaping hole in them.

We need to return to the days when we had a strong, solid, and thoughtful basis for tobacco control policy. Science and solid policy analysis must return as the cornerstones of tobacco control action - not political expediency.

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