For years tobacco companies have denied marketing to children, yet the Joe Camel advertising was one of the most successful marketing campaigns to attract children to smoking. Joe was the mascot of R. J. Reynolds for 10 years from 1987 to 1997, and was actually created for the 75th anniversary of the Camel brand.
A camel has appeared on all packages of the Camel cigarettes since the brand began in 1913. In 1974 a British artist created the caricatured version of the camel for a French advertising campaign that was used in other countries during the 1970s, and Joe Camel was born. Joe was first seen wearing a Foreign Legion cap, and from there he traveled the world, arriving in the U.S. in 1988. Joe was very popular with consumers, but his presence was also noticed by those following smoking trends among youth.
A study published in 1991 by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children as young as six could associate Joe Camel with cigarettes. They alleged that R. J. Reynolds was targeting children, and it was estimated that 32.8% of all cigarettes sold illegally to minors were Camels. Joe Camel helped the sales of the brand go from US$6 million in 1988 to US$476 million by 1992.
The tobacco company denied the allegations, and took out full-page “Let’s Clear the Air on Smoking” ads declaring that their intended audience was 25-49 year old males and smokers of other brands. But 1974 internal documents from R. J. Reynolds showed that children were indeed the target of the marketing campaign. A RJR Vice-President of Marketing said that this young adult market of 14-24 year old age group represents tomorrow’s cigarette business; they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume for at least the next 25 years.
In 1997 after pressure from Congress, a pending lawsuit, and public-interest group, RJR settled out of court and ended the Joe Camel campaign. Gone are the cartoon antics of a smoking camel and instead a new campaign with a plain, side-view image of a camel is used today.
Tobacco companies allege that they don’t market to children, but Joe Camel was just one of many ploys to pull in young, future smokers. Children don’t understand the marketing strategies used, and the health effects of smoking and using tobacco products. Florida educators can help students make those decisions by taking an on-line course designed to teach tobacco prevention and intervention. This free course is at your own pace, provides lesson plans, and provides you with up to 60 teacher in-service credits. Check out our site at: http://www.tobaccopreventiontraining.org/