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March 15th, 2010
08:40 AM ET

Was it a cigarette ad campaign that worked - on teenagers?

By John Bonifield
CNN Medical Producer

 A new study in the journal Pediatrics says that the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company may have influenced underage girls to start smoking by effectively marketing a brand of cigarettes to them.

Cigarette manufacturers aren't supposed to be targeting their ads at young teens - girls or boys. In 1998, the tobacco industry said it wouldn't direct advertising at underage youth. So, what happened here?

The controversial ads were for R.J. Reynold's Camel No. 9 cigarettes. The ads, which were featured in popular women’s magazines like Glamour, Lucky and Vogue back in 2007, look a lot like the pages of a glitzy fashion magazine. The cigarettes are featured right alongside a beautiful dress, shoes, jewelry and a purse - the kinds of items that you might expect teen girls to find glamorous and appealing.

"The ads had a lot imagery that is girl-like," says Cheryl Healton with the American Legacy Foundation, an anti-tobacco advocacy group. "Shocking pink on the packaging. Describing the cigarettes as light and luscious. Making them almost like candy."

 In the study, girls were asked over the course of several years, "What is the name of the cigarette brand of your favorite cigarette advertisement?" In 2004, 10 percent of girls chose Camel as their favorite brand. In 2008, a year after R.J. Reynolds launched its new campaign, nearly 22 percent of girls chose Camel as their favorite brand.

"The majority of these kids had not reported a favorite ad before," says the study's lead author, John Pierce with the University of Southern California-San Diego's Moores Cancer Center.

 This finding has public health officials concerned because studies have found that kids who can tell you the name of the brand of their favorite cigarette ad are 50 percent more likely to take up smoking in the next three years, according to Healton.

 The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company tells CNN that it "adheres to numerous restrictions on how it markets its tobacco products and does not take any action to target youth." The company's statement goes on to say, "Camel No. 9 was developed in response to female adult smokers...who were asking for a product that better reflected their taste preferences and style." R.J. Reynolds says it has not run any print advertising for cigarettes, including Camel No. 9, for more than two years. It also says there has been no in-store advertising for Camel No. 9 since 2008.

Pierce, however, says the damage has been done. He estimates Camel's ad campaign may have influenced 174,000 underage girls to start smoking.

"The company made a commitment they wouldn't go after kids," says Pierce. "The question is, are they targeting young adults or young teens, and a lot of people are saying it's targeting young teens."

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soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. Denise

    The median age of Vogue readers is 34, the median age of Glamour readers is 35 and the median age of Lucky readers is 33. Ads placed in these magazines are not being targeted at teenage girls. They are being targeted (as is pretty obvious to anyone looking at the ads in question) at women, not specifically girls. If anything, the fashions used were a bit too conservative to appeal to most teenagers. I'm not a fan of smoking and I can't understand why anyone raised today would smoke... but just because teenagers are exposed to something doesn't mean it was directed at them. Strangely enough, the world doesn't revolve around teenagers and some marketing is actually targeted at adults.

    March 15, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Brett

    Correlation IS NOT causation....

    March 15, 2010 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Kendall

    I lived in Miami Fl from 2004 – 2008 and during that time period I would be in bars and they ciggarette people would go around and get you ID swipe it and give you a free pack and that was the pack that was handed to you. I agree that camel still targeted young girls and women to smoke the berry flavored ciggarettes. I even would comment when i saw those ads in magazines that they were trying to get kids to smoke the packs look like something a kid would play with.

    March 15, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. JMM09

    This is so ridiculous! NO advertising caused me to start smoking when I was a kid... it was peer-pressure; 100%, pure and simple. To suggest these ads have anything whatsoever with 'luring' anyone into smoking shows how little the pediatricians [who were asked] know about teen behaviors.
    ADVERTISING!!!
    Nothing is said about the sexual ads on every channel, pedaling their treatments for ED. The local funeral home is allowed to annoy the crap out of me [and others] with their casket and cremation ads. How many other ads would we all like to see abolished? But some idiot is convinced ads cause teenage smoking.

    March 15, 2010 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Anthony D

    Who made the girls want all the fashion crap? Perhaps if we would teach the young early enough that "monkey see, monkey do" is not an instinctual response but the sign of a non-thinking person, the girls would be less likey to smoke AND less likely to crave all the baubles Madison Avenue tells them they can't live without.

    March 15, 2010 at 18:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Apark

    One of the leading killers in the United States is obesity. You don't want your kid to smoke a cigarette, but then you go and buy him a happy meal 4 nights a week and he looks like a small planet. The fact is that this country has enough problems, and to keep pointing a finger at cigarette companies is just plain ignorant, while you turn your back to all these other problems. If you don't like cigarettes, then don't smoke them. If you don't want your kids smoking, then do your job as a parent and keep an eye on them.

    March 15, 2010 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ljdouglas

    How many young women do you think are unhealthy and obese (and will die an early death) because of the targeted McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King commercials. I gonna take a wild guess and say it's more than 174,000. Much more!!!! Shame on everyone for making smoking the easy scapegoat.

    March 15, 2010 at 20:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. jay

    Personal Responsibility people!!! If ads did what they say they are then my house should be full of so much stuff that I'm told I need. I guess it's ok to advertise lemonade, tropical fruit, or any number of lovely flavors of alcoholic beverages. I'd rather meet someone smoking and driving than drinking and driving. But I guess it's not PC.

    March 15, 2010 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Michele

    I guess all of us female types are such mindless lemmings that advertising will convince us to take on a smelly, disgusting, and potentially fatal habit because it has a fancy ad. I don't buy it for a minute. People smoke for hundreds of reasons, and advertising most likely served to sway people to a brand or another, but to fully take up the habit out of the blue at the glance of an ad? That is absolutely ridiculous. How many of you have rushed out to buy a car because the car ad had a hot guy in it? On the other hand, if you are already LOOKING for a car, sure you may remember that make and model due to the ad.

    I can't believe how many people think that human beings do not have free will, and as long as some big bad corporation gets their hands on us, we are just big dummies. Sexist propaganda, all of it.

    March 15, 2010 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Andrew

    You people are nuts. We live in the USA! Companies should be able to advertise where they want to who they want. We as people can make our own decisions and teach our children what is wrong or right. America was not founded to have the gov't run all aspects of our life!

    March 15, 2010 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. JLM

    More censorship is just what we need.

    So much for freedoms.

    Parents take some damn responsibility! Stop passing the buck.

    March 15, 2010 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. jimCA

    On the morning of 9/11, cigarettes killed as many people as the terrorists.
    Then in the afternoon, they killed that many again.
    Then in the evening, they killed that many again.

    And they've done that every day since.

    Since WW2, they've killed far more people than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao combined.

    If we can use extraordinary means to interrogate people who might know about the acts that killed 3,000 people, why can't we use similar means to interrogate the CEO's of companies whose products (according the World Health Organization) have killed over 40 million people just since 9/11?

    Think about it. 10 planeloads of Americans killed every day from a single product, 30 million dollars per year given by the tobacco companies to politicians (about 3/4 R, 1/4 D), and no one goes to jail, no is forced to reveal their plan to kill more people, and no one seems to care.

    March 15, 2010 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. anonymous

    Unfortunately teenagers will start smoking either to see what its like or because their friends smoke or their parents smoke. As a young adult myself, I have never felt influenced or desiring cigarettes after flipping through a vogue or lucky magazine.
    My parents were the biggest influence on me by par. They taught me nicotine addiction can be detrimental to my health, and inhaling smoke laced with carcinogens can cause cancer later in life. I knew they would find it very unacceptable if I ever started a cigarette habit.
    I personally think that the people around you influence you the most. Why do people, especially teenagers pick up cigarette smoking? Well to either fit in or they might suffer from a mental illness which draws them to smoking.
    I agree with the posters above reguarding the bad journalism and biased research because there is more to why teenage girls pick up smoking then just the association with clothes, and a cigarette brand.
    The best way to prevent your teen or child from smoking is to TEACH them and SHOW them healthy habits. People need to be educated on how to live a healthy lifestyle. Smoking is one of the components which can lead to declining health in old age but also preventing obsesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc!

    March 16, 2010 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Theo

    When it comes to ads and smoking, the anti-smoking campaigns drove me to smoke more as a teen. Denise raises a great point about the readers for Glamour, Vogue, and Lucky. The tobacco companies shouldn't be barred from placing ads. Some younger audiences will see them sure, whether they smoke or not depends on the guidance given to that child.

    Back to my point though, these anti-smoking campaigns are what is doing the most harm. Teens by nature are rebellious and want to stand out, I know when I was in my teens a solid decade ago the more ads I saw outlining how it's stupid/bad/ or why I shouldn't smoke made me want to smoke more. Why? Because I don't want to be told what I should/shouldn't be doing, if some HORRIBLY produced and intrusive ad is telling me something I'm going to be drawn to do the opposite just to make the statement that they've been heard and I don't appreciate their self-righteous tone.

    March 16, 2010 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Chris

    So I wonder how many young men start drinking beer after the Super Bowl each year? Why hasn't someone done a study to see how many underage alcohol related incidents occur during or immediately following any sport event? Then we can throw Bud Light onto the carpet for making those funny commercials!
    I'm a reformed smoker; I gave it up after 20 years and I'm so glad I did. But, I quit because I wanted to. And that's how I started smoking too...because I wanted to. It wasn't a cowboy in a magazine or Joe Cool Camel that made me decide to start, and they didn't make me decide to quit. I too the personal responsibility and did it on my own.
    Cigarettes are dangerous, no one is doubting that. There aren't any hidden dangers about alcohol, fast food, and driving fast cars yet no one is leading the charge to have Anheuser-Busch, McDonald's, and Ford Motor stamped out of existence.
    Instead of blaming RJ Reynolds for being a company that wants to make a profit by selling a product harmful to your health (Apple makes iPods that are too loud, Ford makes cars that are too fast, McDonalds makes food that makes you unhealthy), maybe we should be taking more personal responsibility for our health and teaching our children about the lifelong dangers of smoking, drinking alcohol, driving too fast, and too much junk food.

    March 16, 2010 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Cory

    Theres all this talk about whether cigarettes intentionaly markets to teens or whatever and whether they should be legal or not. there is more than enough information out there for every person whether healthy or dumb deaf or blind to know that these things are bad for your health but i am smoker and i could care less whats gonna happen to me if i get lung cancer or any other side effect from smoking i have no problem admitting that it is my own fault people need to own up for the choices they make plain an simple

    March 16, 2010 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Danny

    I want to hire the people who designed their ads. They must be good to be able to convince 174,000 people to do something they would not have otherwise done, and that one year after the ad ran.

    March 16, 2010 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Jessiicaa

    i think that they are going after young teens because they want to make them look cool. They know that they are not smart enough to think about it first. They are being very sneaky with this but people are starting to catch on. Maybe they need to get a little bit smarter. Or discontinue ciggerettes.

    Peace.

    March 16, 2010 at 08:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Connie

    As well another good point. the stats are silly. there is probably a 12% increase of girls in that 4 years. (or more which could mean that it's still less number of smokers due to the increase number of girls taking the poles)

    March 16, 2010 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. CES

    Some of these posts are damn near comical.

    (Begin sarcasm) I think it is a huge shame on these Tobacco makers advertising their lucious product! Look at the staggering number of fatal car accidents due to someone lighting up while driving. And, don't get me started on the number of teen-age pregnancies due to a girl being under the influence of nicotine and forgeting to get her free birth control pill at Planned Parenthood or telling her sex partner to use a condom! Oh the atrocities that smoking causes! The rehab centers that are full of people who's quality of life has been diminished to nothing – they have reached bottoms few of us can ever know; losing family, friends, jobs, all because of smoking! Those ads...those ever so dangerous ads that take away my ability to choose!!

    (end sarcasm). Leave the Tobacco companies alone – they are marketing, that's what businesses do when they have a product they want to sell. If I see a TV/Magazine/Internet ad for Burger King's latest mystery-meat, do I lose my sensability, cancel my original dinner/lunch plans and race right over to the nearest establishment to get something that way exceeds my caloric need for the day??? I do have a choice. And the comparison is valid, if the overweight and obesity population numbers published are accurate and the problems associated with being overweight, obese, morbidly obese, or super-morbidly obese are all true, then the drama surrounding cigarettes pales deeply.

    And for the 420 friendly crowd – fine, so you consider Pot to be less of a social menace than cigarettes. Hey, I'm okay with legalizing pot – it's a lucrative tax income. (begin sarcasm) Of course, Pot is not as deadly and dangerous as cigarettes! Numbing out your body and mind is perfectly natural. Especially when driving! (end sarcasm)

    As for me – smoking is a frustrating addiction. It's the only thing I am addicted to. However, with that said, I know so many people who once smoked and no longer do. Guess what that means????? Quitting is absolutely possible. I do wish I had never started – but I didn't start because of some magazine ad. Put accountability on a person, stop giving excuses for someone's behavior (oh no, that was hot coffee I just spilled on my lap!! Who made this coffee that I expect to be hot, I must sue them!!) – no one put a gun to my head to start smoking. I chose it, for whatever social (or non-social) reason at the time.

    Go on and tax the cigarettes and certainly disable the freedom of capitalism for tobacco companies! All our social ills will be resolved once we rid the world of cigarettes.

    March 16, 2010 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Rod S.

    To CES;
    When (Hopefully you quit first) you end up with lung disease and can't smoke because you have to struggle for every single breathe and your life begins to be a living hell, your attitude about the dangers change, unfortunately it's too late by then, we are more educated these days than say our parents,grandparents etc.. There are lots of stupid unhealthy products other than cigs, but this topic happens to be about Ads for Cigarettes......... Your Sarcasm isn't funny to anyone suffering from lung disease caused by cigs. Trust ME I Know!

    March 16, 2010 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Rich Harris

    These types of ad campaigns started way back. Here's a foreign cigarette commercial from 1969 that promises much more than a rush of nicotine. ;-)

    http://www.puppetshed.com/comedy/videos/crazy-foreign-cigarette-commercial-1969/

    September 11, 2012 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
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