The latest Camel Crush magazine ads have health groups targeting Reynolds American and at least two state attorneys investigating.
According to the American Heart Association, American Lung Association and other groups, the ads appear to target minors — which would be a violation of the law. According to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, the manufacturers agree not to “take any action, directly or indirectly, to target Youth within any Settling State in the advertising, promotion or marketing of Tobacco Products, or take any action the primary purpose of which is to initiate, maintain or increase the incidence of Youth smoking within any Settling State.”
The controversy was sparked by ads that ran in 24 magazines that specifically target young people as their audience.
It’s not the first edgy campaign that has fallen on the wrong side of health groups and powerful attorneys. In 2010 Reynolds set its sights on Williamsburg, the hipster capitol of New York. The iconic camel appeared on the front of the cigarette box, with a background of the old Domino Sugar factory and the Williamsburg Bridge.
The Camel website refers to the trendy neighborhood as “the most famous hipster neighborhood,” and sums up the Williamsburg experience as being “about the last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building.”
The Williamsburg label is part of a 10-week “Camel Break Free” promotion that is redesigning the Camel Blues pack, formerly known as Camel Lights.
“We are concerned that this advertising campaign is using aspects of popular culture, including independent music, art, motor sports, and ‘hip’ or countercultural attitudes, to advertise Camel cigarettes in a way that is appealing to young people’s psychological needs for rebelliousness, sensation-seeking, and risk-taking,” wrote the State Attorneys General in a Nov. 23 letter.
Reynolds has not yet offered a statement on the latest accusations.