Dozens of women's and public health organizations on Wednesday called on R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to remove from the market its Camel No. 9 cigarettes, a brand they say is cynically aimed at getting young, fashion-conscious women and girls to start smoking.
At the same time, a Congressional group said it had been rebuffed by major women's and fashion magazines in their effort to get the magazines to stop publishing ads for the Camels and other cigarettes.
Camel No. 9 hit stores early this year. It immediately drew fire for its stylish packaging — shiny, sleek black boxes bordered with fuschia and teal — and ads that included florals, hints of lace and the slogan "Light and Luscious."
The latest ad campaign says "Now available in stiletto" — a longer, thinner cigarette.
"This product is nothing more than a veiled attempt to sell more cigarettes to girls and young women, putting them at grave risk for disease and a premature death," said the letter to R.J. Reynolds chairman Susan Ivey. "Remove Camel No. 9 today." The letter was signed by Cheryl Healton of the American Legacy Foundation, a group set up after the 1998 settlement between the states and the tobacco industry.
Also Wednesday, a group of more than 40 U.S. Congress members, led by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., expressed disappointment that 11 women's magazines were still running the tobacco ads. Vogue's publisher responded to a protest letter from the members, saying Congress should create legal guidelines, and that "any other pressure or coercion ... is at odds with the basic fabric of our country's legal system."
Glamour also wrote back, saying it appreciated the health concerns, but "the Camel ads in question do comply with the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement." W magazine wrote that it would like to discuss this issue further, without mentioning what it would do about the ads.
"It's just flat out hypocritical to run stories about becoming more beautiful and healthy while promoting a dangerous product responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people a year," Capps wrote in a statement.
A spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, asked for reaction Wednesday, repeated the company's contention that the brand "is marketed to adult smokers of competing brands."
"About half the audience is actually male," said David Howard. "The colors and the packaging simply accentuate the style and the premium nature of the brand." He said the company was very happy with sales, saying the brand had achieved a .5 market share in six months. "Clearly," he said, "adult smokers are trying it and like it."