Joe Camel was officially retired as a marketing gimmick in 1997 after internal documents from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company “demonstrated the industry’s interest in targeting children as future smokers” were presented in court during Mangini v. R.J.Reynolds. The tobacco giant settled out of court and pulled the plug on their cartoon smoking marketing campaign. In 1998, the tobacco industry agreed with state attorneys general not to market tobacco products to children, but it seems the agreement hasn’t stopped Big Tobacco from continuing to market to the youth segment through convenient product placement in convenience stores, or developing new products that would entice them. The tobacco industry is spending big bucks at marketing – at a rate of $1 million AN HOUR – to make sure they get noticed.
Candy and fruit flavored cigarettes are banned but candy flavored cigars and little cigars are still available and are popular with teens. These products, which look like and are packaged like cigarettes, are taxed at a lower rate, making them more affordable to teens. Cigars can also be purchased in a single pack. Here in Florida 25.1% of high school students have smoked cigars at least once. Kids have heard that cigarettes are deadly, but a candy flavored cigar doesn’t seem so dangerous. How can something that smells like a strawberry or grape be harmful or addictive? The above picture, from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, shows there is little difference between cigarettes and little cigars side-by-side.
Teen smokers like to try the newest thing out there, and they want a cigarette that will go with their lifestyle. It does not matter that smoking is not healthy, teens think they can easily quit when they are older. Teens want to have the latest product on the market, even when that product is a cigarette. The tobacco industry knows this and wants to satisfy their teen customers. A young, female smoker wants to be stylish and fashionable when she dresses up in her little black dress, and Camel is there to go along with their Camel No. 9. The hot pink or teal trimmed box looks stylish and the catchy “No. 9” sounds like one of the famous perfumes on the market. If you don’t want your cigarette pack to match your little black dress, there is always a stylish purse pack that is in the size and shape of a bottle of perfume or looks like makeup, like in the picture on the right, above.
If the size, shape and color of the package doesn’t grab the teen’s attention, then there is always the extra advertising at the point of sale. Most times the advertising is placed by the candy and non-tobacco products in the convenience store, constantly in the face of customers.
The 2009 Tobacco Control Act prohibits the sale of tobacco in vending machines “to persons less than 18 years of age,” and the machines “must be in plain view and under direct supervision and control of the person in charge of the location or his/her designee.” However, there are many vending machines with a large assortment of tobacco products, like this one in Ohio. You would think those responsible for the vending machine would be aware of the law with regard to tobacco.
Although the tobacco companies claim to not market to the youth population, the pictures and products don’t lie. The adult smoker doesn’t need a picture to tell them what product they want. Putting tobacco products out of sight won’t deter the adult consumer, but will slow youth consumption and decrease tobacco use by our future generations.