Camel No. 9 cigarettes are the pink version of Joe Camel, or, as one Oregon newspaper put it, “Barbie Camel.” And R.J. Reynolds’s marketing strategy is abetted with giveaways to fashion-conscious young women that include berry lip balm and hot pink cellphone jewelry, mini-purses and wristbands. The tagline for Camel No. 9 is “light and luscious”; how better to sell a cancer-causing cigarette than to make it sound like a tasty treat? There’s even a Camel No. 9 “stiletto” line, meant to evoke images of the sexy shoes.
Someone should remind R.J. Reynolds that there’s nothing sexy about emphysema or dying prematurely from cancer. No amount of pretty pink packaging can obscure the fact that lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer among American women — a truth that underscores tobacco companies’ desperate search for new smokers.
And, surprise surprise, women’s fashion mags are willfully aiding and abetting the lethal marketing strategy – and could care less about the carcinogenic consequences:
While we have come to expect this kind of sleazy marketing from tobacco companies, a big disappointment is that they’ve found an ally in women’s fashion magazines. That’s right, America’s most popular magazines for women, which set trends for the country and have historically served as respected sources for articles on women’s health and fitness, have sold out the well-being of their readers to help Big Tobacco in its search for new victims.
In June, 40 of my congressional colleagues joined me in writing to the publishers of 11 leading women’s magazines: Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, InStyle, Interview Magazine, Lucky, Marie Claire, Soap Opera Digest, Us Weekly, Vogue and W. We asked them to stop accepting misleading advertisements for deadly cigarettes, particularly for Camel No. 9. Not one of the magazines bothered to formally respond. We wrote again on Aug. 1. Seven of the 11 magazines responded, but none has committed to dropping the ads.
Several of the magazines asserted that they can report and editorialize on the dangers of smoking while simultaneously accepting advertisements for the very product they pretend to decry. One complained that we were using “coercion” to prevent it from doing business and even questioned our patriotism for questioning its blind pursuit of profits.
It would be nice to think that the four that never responded — Interview Magazine, Marie Claire, Soap Opera Digest and Us Weekly — have been shamed into silence over their acceptance of ads that promote to young women a deadly, and entirely preventable, addiction. But the truth is all of these publications seem to care more about their bottom lines than the health of their readers, young and old.
Ah yes, the primacy of the profit margin. To quote FPN, “[i]t is a sad commentary that the profitability of death, which plays out in so many ways, is a value we hold more dear than life in in this supposed democracy.” You’ve come a hell of a long way, baby.