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 (124 Responses)
  1. Rod S.

    I think for every cigarette ad there should be an ad displaying the True Dangers of cigarette smoking, literally next to the buy our product & inhale smoke ad. Expensive but I believe it would deter enough people to justify it's cost.

    PS Of course these ads attract younger people, they are meant to do that, the older people aren't long term customers anymore, these things can knock off up to 20+ years from your life expectancy, out with the old and damaged in with the new fresh lungs....

    March 15, 2010 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mary

    Obviously, we are doing something wrong by teaching young people to read. The solution is to keep young people illiterate and deny them access to magazines until they're adults.

    March 15, 2010 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Edward

    Kids will always do what they like regardless of what the pack of smokes look like. This experiment is more than a joke with no real numbers and Pierce sounds a little bias to non-smokers of course he would say you influenced children. I take note and say this if your child smokes it is not because of the faults of R.J. Reynolds but the fault of the parents for not keeping your kids in check. How about we do a little more parenting and a little less picking on company's that "adhears to numerous restrictions on how it markets its tobacco." that was already in place. Quit blaming other people for your bad behavior.

    March 15, 2010 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. UncleJohn

    While I have little doubt the cigarette maker was targeting teen girls, the study itself is flawed. By definition, a person who has a _favorite_ cigarette brand is already smoking. What they really measured was simply brand preference.

    March 15, 2010 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bobby

    Of course they target kids. All companies have to add to their customer base at the bottom as it leaves them from the top. In the case of cigarettes, they are killing off their own customers with their product.

    All these PR statements and making a show of being a responsible, concerned industry that cares for the health of their users is a sham.

    Anyone who wonders at their sincerity need only check out how the same companies market their cigarettes in countries with less restrictions.

    March 15, 2010 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Janet

    Why is it that a drug like marijuana is still illegal but one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs out there - tobacco - is still perfectly legal and available. Tobacco addiction is harder to overcome than heroin addiction, yet our government turns a blind eye to the mega-giant tobacco companies blatant disregard for health. The tobacco companies boost their cigarettes with chemicals to make them more addictive, they lie under oath about the dangers of their product, and they spend billions of dollars targeting those who should be the last ones to consider smoking - children and lower income households.

    March 15, 2010 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. The_Mick

    "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."

    "...you might expect teen girls to find glamorous and appealing." Just TEEN girls? Are you kidding? I spent hours tramping down the Champs Elysees in Paris with three women because they had to stop in EVERY shop and look at the dresses, shoes, jewelry, purses, etc. They youngest was 45 and the oldest was 74.

    March 15, 2010 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. agFinder

    I can only pray that no public dollars were used to fund this "study". They're advertising in Vogue, what types of imagery are they supposed to use, muddy work boots and jack hammers? I'm anti-cigarettes as well, but you can't blame RJR because young teen girls are attracted to the same things as young women.

    March 15, 2010 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. frogbutt

    What a moronic statement! Anything the tobacco industry puts on its packaging or ads can be attributed to an aim at a particular group! Oh look, a camel, must be aimed at Egyptians! Oh but its pink, so girl Egyptians! But it's in a box, close-minded girl Egyptians!!! Wow! Wrapped in plastic? Environmentally unaware, close-minded, girl Egyptians! Come on!

    March 15, 2010 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Amy

    Smoking by peers is what caused me to start smoking plus the give-aways they used to have ... glad my smoking didn't last!!! Cigarettes are THE number 1 gateway drug!!! Period.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. frank

    The non smoking freaks have nothing better to do. I read this in a medical journal, that second hand smoke give children cavities.these are highly educated people. but in reality, dont they realize how sick they are .making a comment like that . it scares me by surprise.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Augustus Lowell

    The inhuman expectations about self-image, unabashed materialism, and intense narcissism on exhibit throughout all the pages of those magazines probably does far more damage to teens (and adults) than any single page of cigarette advertising could ever hope for.

    Perhaps the problem is not that R.J. Reynolds bought ads in those magazines (which are, after all, nominally marketed to adults) but that the young girls were reading them in the first place, and apparently with such avidity and passion that they would not only remember but embrace what they'd encountered - with or without cigarette advertising.


    March 15, 2010 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mark H

    How can an advertiser possibly differentiate a printed ad to only appeal to those 21 years of age or older? Many of the magazines in question are are already aimed towards adults, but teenagers routinely read them and as a result are influenced by their content as well as their advertising. At the same time, children are bombarded with subliminal advertisements in the form of NASCAR sponsorships, spokespersons, and models and can't make heads or tails out of the conflicting messages. We can't protect our children by hiding the world from them, instead we should be investing in educating them about advertising, setting good examples, and surrounding them with appropriate role models.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Michael

    When are we going to finally shut these people down and put them out of business? The behavior of the Tobacco companies has been proven time and time again to be deceitful, unprincipled and bordering on criminal. The product they sell does more damage to the population and costs us all collectively in the vicinity of 170 billion a year (See http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/understand.html) This is similar to the 180 billion a year it costs for each of the categories of Drug abuse and alcohol abuse. So why, when we KNOW that tobacco kills people do we accept this? Currently, we generate approximately 50 billion a year from taxes on tobacco much of which (at the federal level) goes to fund health care for children. This tax is on consumers. How about we also hit the Tobacco companies with a public interest tax of 50%? My guess is that shareholders will quickly put their money somewhere else and these purveyors of sickness and death will be put out of business.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Gene

    Reynolds should be held to whatever it contracturally agreed to, but, for pity sake, let's put some considerable weight on personal responsibility. We're not mindless robots or sheep. Are we?

    My parents both smoked heavily, in the fifties, and I can still recite the cigarette jingles by memory (Winston tastes good, like a cigarette...). But, except for a brief foray in third grade, I've never smoked.

    Mad Magazine had something to do with it ("This is something really stupid the adults do"), but I've rarely done something just because a majority thought it cool, or because of the manufactured enthusiasms of commercial culture.

    There's an ethos PSA's might promote

    March 15, 2010 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jonathan

    This article is full of specious logic. This biggest flaw is the assumption that if 12% more girls chose Camel as the brand with the best ad in 2008 compared with 2004, that this means 12% increase is due solely to the No. 9 add and that this additional 12% favoring Camel was from a pool of girls that had not previously had a favorite add. Maybe, if not for the camel add, they would have chosen a different brand. How many respondents did not have a favorite add? Did the percentage of respondents preferring Marlboro, Salem Lights, or Kools remain the same? decrease? what? These are important considerations to make before interpreting the results of this study.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RW

    Cigarettes should be illegal. They do nothing but cost people tremendous amounts of money all while killing them. Heck, they even meet the FDA/DEA qualifications of a Schedule I Substance. Wonder how much our lawmakers get in kick-backs for that?!

    March 15, 2010 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Behold

    What this study doesn't address is whether these girls would have started smoking anyways. It only seems to address what brand they are likely to buy.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Jonathan

    The title of the Pediatrics article is "Camel No. 9 Cigarette-Marketing Campaign Targeted Young Teenage Girls." That alone makes me question the motives of the researchers. It is one thing for the ad to effectively turn young teenage girls into Camel smokers, but targeting implies intent and in now way can the data show that intent.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Linda M. Nickolai

    GIVE ME A BREAK!!!! I am sick and tired of no one accepting responsibility for their decisions and choices. My teenage daughters' schools have crammed it down all students' throats about the dangers of smoking. Some cool ad is not going to cause the teenagers of today to forget absolutely everything they were just taught in school. Ad or no ad - some teens are going to smoke. Why do we always have to blame someone else? How about each teen that lit up made a decision to do so. There was not a Camel representative standing there forcing them to do anything. You know, Armani has really cool ads too. If I put myself into bankruptcy buying their product, can I blame them for their ads enticing me so the CHOICE of buying their product wasn't really my fault?

    March 15, 2010 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Melissa

    Wow, these people must really think teenagers are stupid. Its just an ad. People don't start doing things because of ad's, they do them because of peer pressure.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. jake

    thats dumb. they have done everything to try and drive the ciggarette companies out of buisness from blocking any marketing to outlawing reward points with ciggarettes. they cant even have a car in nascar which was the winston cup. but jack daniels can...

    March 15, 2010 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Bobby

    Patrick Reynolds, the son of R.J. Reynolds Jr., gave the Keynote Address at the United Nations' Child Health 2000 Congress. He said the following:

    "My Dad died from emphysema, the result of his lifelong cigarette addiction, in 1964, when I was still a boy."

    "The fact is that a majority of smokers - sixty percent - begin smoking by the age of 14. And ninety percent of all those who smoke become addicted before reaching their 19th birthday. That means that only one smoker in ten takes up the habit after age 19."

    "So almost no one starts smoking after age 19! The sad truth is that 90 percent of those who become addicted to cigarettes are children and teenagers. "

    The cigarette companies are well aware of this and know when they have to pick up new customers.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Bill

    Of *course* cigarette companies target teens no matter what they might claim. They know quite well have to get people hooked early or they will never take up smoking.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Michael Wong

    Yes, of course Jonathan, you're so right: you can dismiss a study without the slightest idea of its methodology, just by looking at its title. I hear you can also dismiss books by looking at their covers.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. anon

    I wish people would just get over themselves and quit trying to make everything a plot or conspiracy.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Michael Wong

    Linda Nickolai wrote: "I am sick and tired of no one accepting responsibility for their decisions and choices."

    Yes, I too am sick of people thinking that corporations should accept no responsibility for their decisions and choices. Oops, you meant that consumers should accept responsibility for what they buy, and corporations should bear no responsibility for what they sell or how they sell it. Right?

    Responsibility is for everyone. All too often, people who shout "responsibility" think it's only for the little people.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. JON

    i agree with you gene... smoking is bad for you so like everything else that is bad for you it will always be seen as cool and attractive.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. FatSean

    Look, I think smoking is bad. But this is just idiotic. Like the stupid legislation that bans flavored (but not mint-flavored menthol) cigarettes because the precious children might believe the advertising.

    What's next? Ban on McDonalds advertising towards children?

    March 15, 2010 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Sam Samuel

    I was 9 years old watching "I;ve Got a Secret" with Gary Moore, when I watched a white man sitting under a treet in an open meadow of grass, and a blond haired svelt 21 year old white woman running slowly toward an embrace. The two of them sat together in the meadow smoking a "Salem Cigarette". I knew then, that even in Jim Crow Land, I had to start smoking so that I could have that woman..., or one like her.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Pope Jon

    Now hold on just a minute here. I have absolutely no sympathy for any tobacco company and I certainly would not advocate for anyone to smoke for any reason. But Glamour and Vogue Magazine? I find this extremely hypocritical to mention two magazines that emphasize and promote a woman’s physique that 90% of the female population could never realistically achieve. How many women’s self-esteem has been crushed by these magazines? How many women are anorexic and bulimic because of these types of magazines? How many women lost their lives from bulimia and anorexia because of these types of magazines? Honestly shouldn’t we be more concerned about the content in these types of women’s magazines then what they advertise? Its just common sense, in the real world we live in people don’t buy magazines to read advertisements…

    March 15, 2010 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Cindy

    In response to the person who said it's the fault of the parents if a child smokes has no clue. Parents can just do so much to control what their children do and do not do. It comes down to the decision the child makes, right or wrong. They do have their own minds yiu know.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. QPac

    I had a few replies:

    To Edward: What products and ads look like, does affect the choice of the consumer. That should be obvious. If its ok to market anything, would you be ok with marketing Meth? No.

    To UncleJohn: Yes thats what the study said. It measured brand preference.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. beverly

    you can display all the warning and under age signs, lectures and anything else that you want, but if they are going to do, they are GOING to do it! Be assured of that. No different than drugs, alcohol, and even date "bad boys" that they shouldn't, no matter what. That is the way the kids are.
    I am not saying not to try your best, but in the end, they will do as they want one way or the other.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Dan

    The problem here is not who the target is, but why is this industry allowed to advertise at all?
    i stopped smoking over 15 years ago, but still terribly resent be exposed to any type of cigarette advertising. Why is this any different from advertising Heroin, Cocaine or Meth? They all kill and all cost this country horrible suffering, family disintegration and billions in waste.
    Try some common sense...

    March 15, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. ruth

    while i am a non smoker and a parent of a young child, i do not believe that camel had been targeting teens. the recogocnition factor doesnt mean that kids are getting the message. its that kids are now trained to recognize brands. more than 100,000 kinds of ads and product placements can be found from tv to the shoes your kids are wearing. and if the ads are only found in mags like vogue and cosmo, what are such young kids doing viewing that very adult material?

    March 15, 2010 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Sharon

    Please, people, let's be honest. Ads don't cause anyone to smoke. Ohter people cause us to smoke, especially when we are young. Friends smoke, so we start. It seems cool to fit in with and emulate the people we want to hang around with.

    I taught high school for 33 years. Never once did any kid tell me they started smoking because of an ad. It's all about the friends and fitting in. Any other causation is pure delusion.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Rod S.

    Pro-Tabacco Co.'s are thriving $$$$$$$$.
    Con-People are dying prematurely..........
    Are you the Pro here?

    March 15, 2010 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Hard

    In much the same way these cigarettes are killing our youths, there is an even more dangerous product that had taken an exponential amount of young female lives. This product is more prevalent than carcinogenic cigarettes and can be found in nearly every home in America. It is also highly accessible to our youths, with health complications that can range from gross disfigurement to death. This proven killer that nobody is doing anything about is the automobile. Ban it, ban their commercials, ban the targeting of young drivers and for good measure retrofit all existing units with an appropriate Surgeon General warning.

    Cars kill people, more than cigarettes. Let’s get behind something that will make more of a difference that attacking tobacco, let’s attack the auto market.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. secret

    I think its not the fault of anybody for the rise in smoking in young people, its based off of misinformation about the product. Here is an example, if you tell somebody for years that something is dangerous and it will harm you, they are probably going to believe you. However this also leads to a rise in curiousity and questions like "if its so bad then why isnt my friend appearing to be negitavely affected". Then they try it and nothing bad happens AT THE TIME, and because of this they feel like the product isnt as dangerous as they once thought. I think educating people is the answer and if they still decide after all the knowledge to smoke, then that is their right.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. KRV

    Melissa: Peer pressure is a part of any teen life. Linking cigarettes with other desirable items is a very effective way of using peer pressure among teens to sell more cigarettes.

    Since 1988, Norway has gradually put in place measures to reduce smoking, for example a ban on smoking in public places and forcing cigarette companies to print clearly visible warnings on their products to inform consumers of what smoking does to them. Oh, and let's not forget a total ban on all tobacco ads. Smoking in Norway is down from 45% to 17% in people between 16 and 26 years of age. That's millions and millions of euros saved in medical expenses and a higher quality of life for everyone.

    Well, except for the people selling that poison, naturally.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Bobby

    I think for every person that thinks it's tv and the media's fault that they're kids are doing something bad, should have their children taken away and be shot out of a cannon. This way it will prevent these weak willed, poor parenting clowns from polluting the earth with their filthy seeds. Why don't we take a step back and start taking some accountability for our actions, hmm?

    March 15, 2010 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RMoore

    I'm not a parent of a teenage girl, so I may be mistaken, but does anyone encourage a 17 year old gild to wear a little black dress and heels? It seems that the appropriate age for the fashion link with that ad is older than is being presented.

    Just my 2 cents from an ex smoker.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Bill Surrey

    Frank said: you non smoking freaks.
    Congratulations, Frank. You have said the dumbest thing I have heard so far this year.
    Frank, you are a nicotine junkie! Or are you just stupid, or something?

    March 15, 2010 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Ian Magnusson

    It's a legal product. Why is advertuising it so restricted? It just doesn't make any sense. I'm not a smoker, but I respect the freedom of people to choose to smoke. If we don't want people smoking, we should ban smoking. We ban other drugs we don't want people to use; why not tobacco? But as long as its legal, let it be legal. These advertising restrictions are nonsense.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. erusaro

    Why can't anyone accept responsibility for corrupting youth. All parents and other adults do is blame businesses. While I think tobacco is pathetic I believe it is the parents responsibility to teach their children that smoking isn't good. Businesses of all types target youth and have the right to as this is america. Parents need to stand up and become parents again.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. ron

    Who cares!?!?

    If a 15 year can be tried as an adult they should be able to smoke if they want to.

    Every year we are having our decisions made for us by the Government. It's not cool......

    March 15, 2010 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Gvii

    Perhaps we should stop blaming what our kids do on everything but ourselves. If you really don't want to stop blaming everything under the sun, you could at least try to take some responsibility.

    But in this brave new world, consisting of nothing but political correctness, and the new mentality of "ME!", heaven forbid we take any responsibility for anything.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Lisa

    Glamour, Lucky, and Vogue are women's magazines. They are not magazines intended for "young teens". People should seriously stop blaming the advertising industry, the tobacco industry, and television for the moral decline of their children. Instead, look closer to home.

    It is our jobs as parents to be the filter for our children. We cannot expect outside society to be the morality police. If teens want to smoke, they will find a way to do it, just like anything else. It's up to us as parents to have open communication with our children so that they are less likely to engage in the behavior.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Erik

    I do advertising photography and a few years back a peer said she was approached by a tobacco company that wanted her to shoot a series of ads SPECIFICALLY TARGETED TO UNDERAGE GIRLS. It was not this brand or campaign, but don't doubt for a second the industry targets the young. All the more reason to put effort into teaching our OWN kids to reject this (and other) harmful behavior regardless of how slickly promoted. They might sell it, but we don't have to buy it.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
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