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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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Cigarette Ad May Have Targeted Teen Girls

Survey Suggests Camel No. 9 Ads in Magazines Caught the Attention of Teenage Girls
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 15, 2010 -- A Camel cigarette ad may have targeted teenage girls, an antismoking group claims.

In a national survey of teens conducted soon after ads for the R.J. Reynolds brand Camel No. 9 appeared in leading women's magazines, 44% of the girls could name a favorite brand, based on advertising. Their average age was 15.

In previous surveys, about 10% fewer girls named a favorite cigarette advertisement. The increase in the latest survey was almost exclusively for the Camel brand.

The landmark 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between states' attorneys general and the tobacco industry prohibits all tobacco marketing aimed at children and teens.

Since the agreement, the smoking rate among teens has dropped dramatically, from 35% to about 20%.

R.J. Reynolds strongly denies marketing to teens, but longtime tobacco trends researcher John P. Pierce, PhD, who led the survey, disagrees.

His research was funded by the antismoking group American Legacy Foundation and the National Cancer Institute. It appears online today in Pediatrics.

"The MSA has worked. Smoking among kids is way down," he tells WebMD. "But the industry, and Reynolds in particular, is out there doing what they can to get people to start smoking, and they are targeting teens."

Magazine Ads

The ads for Camel No. 9 began soon after the brand was launched early in 2007.

One shows a classic little black dress surrounded by high-fashion accessories; it was juxtaposed with images of cigarettes packaged in patent-leather black, bordered in magenta or teal.

Another ad shows the magenta-regular and teal-menthol cigarette packs surrounded by flowers, with the tag line reading "light and luscious."

The ads ran briefly in 10 national magazines, including Glamour, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

According to the antismoking group Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the brand's launch also included special-event giveaways including berry-flavored lip balm, cell phone jewelry and Rocker Girl wristbands.

Before the marketing campaign, no more than 13% of girls in the survey group who expressed a preference chose Camel as their favorite cigarette advertising. In the months after the Camel No. 9 ads ran, 21% identified Camel as their favorite brand, based on advertising.

"The claim that [tobacco companies] aren't marketing to teens is just patently untrue," says Pierce, who is a professor at the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center. "Would anyone really believe that berry-flavored lip balm would be intended for a 50-year-old?"

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