- (Reuters/U.S. Food and Drug Administration/Handout)
Camel Crush cigarette ads may be targeting minors with their latest round of promotions, various health organizations allege. The American Heart Association and others have come against the ads, which appear in various magazines with significant teenage demographics.
The Camel Crush cigarette ads first began appearing in April in over 24 magazines including ESPN the magazine, Rolling Stone, People, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly, many of which have teen readers, according to The Inquisitr. Because tobacco companies are forbidden to market to underage children by the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, the health groups feel Reynolds American, Inc., which owns the Camel brand, are in violation.
"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," a signed letter to the Tobacco Committee Co-Chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General read. Supporting the letter is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Legacy, the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network and the American Lung Association, according to the Associated Press.
Camel cigarette ads have also not appeared in print since 2007, when the company decided to suspend after intense criticism, according to Newsmax. Their new Camel Crush menthol cigarette, which has a button to release the menthol flavor, is the first advertisement marketing a cigarette since then, although the company continued to push smokeless and dissolvable tobaccos.
Reynolds American Inc. is pushing back against the criticism and fighting the idea that they are marketing to teenagers and minors. Richard Smith, a representative for the company, said that they analyze readerships and only advertise in publications with at least 85 percent adult readership. The latest round of ads comply with the 1998 agreement, he told Newsmax.com.
The health organizations' sharp criticism is reminiscent of the issues with Joe Camel, who was previously used to market to minors from 1987 to 1997. The character led to lawsuits and print ads were banned in various countries, although they remained legal in the U.S.
"Studies showed that Camel's share of the youth cigarette market soared after the campaign began, and Joe Camel at one point was nearly as recognizable to 6-year-olds as Mickey Mouse," the signed letter from health groups read. "Congressional scrutiny, a Federal Trade Commission investigation and public outrage" led to the retiring of the character, they said.
Menthol cigarettes have also been highly criticized, as many say they mask the usual harsher taste and smell of smoke for children.