States Sue RJ Reynolds Over Camel Ads
Dec 4, 2007
By MARC LEVY, Associated Press Writer
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — An illustrated advertising section in Rolling Stone magazine violates the tobacco industry’s nine-year-old promise not to use cartoons to sell cigarettes, state officials charged Tuesday.
Attorney general’s offices in at least eight states planned to file lawsuits starting Tuesday about the advertising for Camel cigarettes in the November edition of Rolling Stone, officials said.
The section combines pages of Camel cigarette ads with pages of magazine-produced illustrations on the theme of independent rock music.
“Their latest nine-page advertising spread in Rolling Stone, filled with cartoons, flies in the face of their pledge to halt all tobacco marketing to children,” Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Tom Corbett said in a statement released Tuesday.
Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Washington state are filing lawsuits Tuesday, Corbett’s office said. Attorneys general offices in two other states, Maryland and Connecticut, also said they were taking part.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown confirmed his participation, calling the publication a “rather clever piece of advertising.”
“They agreed not to do these kinds of things ever since Joe Camel,” Brown said. “We have to call them to task.”
David Howard, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds in Winston-Salem, N.C., did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He told The New York Times last month that there was a clear difference between the Camel ads on the outside pages of the section and the illustrations in the magazine-produced inside fold-out.
The landmark 1998 settlement between 46 states and the tobacco industry reimburses states for smoking-related health care costs. In an effort to prevent the industry from pitching to minors, the agreement includes a provision against using cartoons in advertisements.
The cigarette ads in Rolling Stone tout “free range rock” and support for independent record labels while using photographic images of people in 1950s dress, farm animals, an old-fashioned tractor and furnishings like a phonograph against a farm backdrop. Those pages fold out to reveal a four-page illustrated spread of an “Indie Rock Universe” with animals, imaginary figures and other drawings.
But Corbett’s office said the states are seeking fines of $100 per magazine distributed within their borders, as well as $100 per hit on the related R.J. Reynolds Web site, http://www.thefarmrocks.com .
Ray Chelstowski, publisher of Rolling Stone, said R.J. Reynolds had no idea that the magazine’s pages would be illustrated, as opposed to an article in independent music, and said the Camel ads tout the music Web site, not cigarettes.
“Particularly the fact that what Camel is promoting here is a Web site makes at least some of the accusations seem far-fetched,” Chelstowski said Tuesday.
Other states are reviewing the matter and could join the effort, said Nils Frederiksen a spokesman for Corbett. If every state involved in the 1998 settlement files suit, the fines could exceed $100 million, he said.
The lawsuits also ask for the removal of the images from all Web sites and promotions and a payment by R.J. Reynolds equal to the cost of the Rolling Stone advertisement to be used for anti-smoking ads.
No “butts” about it, Camel ad is harmless
By: STAFF EDITORIAL
Attorney general offices in eight states, including Pennsylvania, are planning to file lawsuits against the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company for running an illustrated Camel advertisement in the Nov. 15 edition of Rolling Stone magazine.
The attorneys general claim that the nine-page advertisement violates the 1998 settlement that prohibits the use of cartoons in cigarette advertisements.
Well, we opened up our copy of Rolling Stone and found that the ad spread was hardly an ad for cigarettes at all.
Rather, it’s an ad for the Camel-sponsored “Indie Rock Universe,” a guide to indie rock music.
Camel is “committed to supporting and promoting independent record labels,” the ad proudly reads. The nine-page spread features a special foldout full of intricate illustrated images related to the indie rock scene.
These pictures include animals, imaginary characters and images related to planets and stars.
To be on the safe side, the ad also includes three surgeon general’s warnings.
We played “I Spy,” but we could not find a single image of a cigarette in the entire spread. Actually, the word “Camel” only appears three times. Indeed, one could very easily look at the illustrations and not know that cigarettes had anything to do with it.
So, what are these attorneys general smoking?
Pennsylvania’s attorney general Tom Corbett told the Associated Press that Camel’s “spread in Rolling Stone, filled with cartoons, flies in the face of their pledge to halt all tobacco marketing to children.”
But there isn’t much of an argument for a court case here. While these are colorful illustrations, none of the pictures has anything to do with cigarettes or smoking.
There are no pictures showing anyone or anything smoking.
The spread is also entirely straightforward. There are no subliminal messages related to smoking or cigarettes.
It’s just a creative advertisement for indie rock music, indie rock bands and indie rock illustrations.
When we think about cartoon cigarette advertisements, we think of Joe Camel. And this ad is nowhere near as bad as Joe Camel was, puffing away and smirking, enticing little kids to light up.
Thanks to the landmark 1998 agreement, cigarette advertisements have improved a lot since Joe Camel.
The way we see it, this advertisement is in no way violating the agreement.
The cartoons are not being used to directly market cigarettes in the way Joe Camel was used almost a decade ago. Rather, the illustrations are being used to publicize indie rock music.
There is no reason why this ad should not be allowed to run. We do not condone cartoons like Joe Camel being used to advertise cigarettes. But, at the same time, it is not fair to prohibit tobacco companies from using creative illustrations in their ads, especially when those illustrations have nothing to do with cigarettes.