A study published online in Pediatrics this week again demonstrated the persuasive power of big tobacco’s marketing campaigns. In 2007, R.J. Reynolds introduced Camel No. 9, and their branding effort came complete with pink packaging as well as a name mimicking perfume. Advertisements for Camel No. 9 were run in magazines such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan, and offered giveaway promotions of lip balm, purses and cell phone jewelry. According to the Pediatrics study, these advertisements directly appealed to girls aged 12-16, and potentially had a direct impact on smoking rates in this population.
Following the ad campaign, the rates of girls reporting a favorite cigarette advertisement increased from 34% to 44%, although for boys, their rates remained basically unchanged from 37.8% to 39.2%. According to the study’s authors, “the theory of persuasive communication predicts that this increase in receptivity should translate into increased smoking initiation in the remaining 5 years of the smoking initiation age window” (pg. 624) and the article goes on to state the ad campaign violated the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), which restricts the tobacco industry from targeting advertisements towards teens.
The print ads for Camel No 9 were pulled in 2008 and R.J. Reynolds has issued a statement refuting the claims of the study, stating the advertisements were directed at women, and that at least 85% of the magazine readership in which the advertisements were run was over age 18. R.J. Reynolds was also quick to point out that no print or in-store advertisements have been run since 2008. However, it appears that even this short ad campaign had a direct effect on the smoking habits of adolescent girls, and seems to mirror the same tactics used with the previous Joe Camel campaign which also targeted youth. In an attempt to avoid an increase in teen smoking, it is essential that cigarette manufacturers be held to a higher standard, and be accountable to the MSA.
To read the complete study, go to http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/peds.2009-0607v1