by Elizabeth Hemmerdinger

So they’re going to wrap Camel cigarettes in pretty paper, highlighted in hot pink and green, to pitch to women. From The New York Times:

[R.J.] Reynolds, eager to increase the sales of its fast-growing Camel brand among women, is introducing a variety aimed at female smokers. The new variation, Camel No. 9, has a name that evokes women’s fragrances like Chanel No. 19, as well as a song about romance, “Love Potion No. 9.”

But don’t look for a Jo Camel to join Old Joe the dromedary on Camel packages, displays or posters. Rather, Camel No. 9 signals its intended buyers with subtler cues like its colors, a hot-pi.jpgnk fuchsia and a minty-green teal; its slogan, “Light and luscious”; and the flowers that surround the packs in magazine ads.

Are we going to fall for that? I sure hope not. R.J. Reynolds is out to sell us more illness-inducing substances that we don’t need at all — cancer-causing agents, for one — wrapped in a pretty package. Who loses? Women; their children; their families; taxpayers, as medical costs rise if more smokers light up.

Of course, advertising like this is nothing new. Though it does seem even more ridiculous now that we know how deadly cigarette smoking is — and how particularly dangerous it is to women.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women. More than 70,000 women died of lung cancer in 2006. It claims more lives each year than breast cancer and all gynecological cancers combined.

Smoking has long been tied to women’s freedoms, but there is nothing liberating about cancer, emphysema or the host of other ailments smoking causes.

The Times’ Stuart Elliott writes:

Aiming tobacco ads at women is a longtime strategy. Documents from the files of the tobacco companies, released in 1998, indicated they had studied female smoking habits through research projects with names like “Tomorrow’s Female,” “Cosmo” and “Virile Female.”

Decades ago, a sultry woman cooed, “Blow some my way” to a man smoking Chesterfield cigarettes in magazine ads from the old Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company. Ads for Chesterfield, Camel, Lucky Strike, Old Gold, Philip Morris and other mainstay brands featured female celebrities like Lucille Ball, Marlene Dietrich, Risë Stevens and Barbara Stanwyck.

Even Wilma Flintstone smoked, in animated commercials for Winston cigarettes that appeared during “The Flintstones.” The last cigarette commercial to be broadcast on American television, on Jan. 1, 1971, was for Virginia Slims.

One of the most famous moments in marketing took place in 1929, when Edward L. Bernays, widely considered the father of public relations, alerted newspapers that women would be smoking in public, during the Easter parade on Fifth Avenue, to promote “equality of the sexes.” He did not reveal he was paid for his “torches of freedom” effort by American Tobacco, the maker of Lucky Strike, which sought to encourage women to smoke.

Camel’s new campaign to introduce No. 9 will include promotional events and advertisements in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Flaunt, Glamour, Vogue and W. According to the NYT, estimates on the campaign costs “range from $25 million to $50 million.” Cheryl G. Healton, president and chief executive of the American Legacy Foundation, which oversees the anti-smoking Truth campaign aimed at youth, said Cosmo and Glamour has younger readers, which means R.J. Reynolds is “looking for initiation, appealing to young girls to up their market share.”

We don’t want to lose young women to disease. We want them to live long and healthy lives, do work that is fulfilling, raise families if they want to.

Lots of hard work is being done to eradicate smoking. Let’s join in the battle and fight for our nation’s health. The American Legacy Foundation has a great deal of information and resources available on its website. And here’s contact information for R.J. Reynolds. Let them hear from all of us.

Please pass this along to anyone you think might be committed to women’s health and the health of the nation. How can we make it clear we’re not going to take it any more? Got any ideas? Add your comments below!

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  • Andrea Learned February 23, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Camel seems to be really underestimating women, older and younger, with this effort. Sure, if you are already a smoker – you may try a pack or two of No. 9s, but then you’ll go back to the brand you know you like already. More youthful non-smokers will go to the “smoking salons” that Camel has set up (one in NYC, I hear) and get the manicures, drink the drinks and enjoy the party. If they buy a discounted pack or two of the cigarettes, as an aside – is that really going to improve sales for Camel?
    Young women have been much more exposed to anti-smoking campaigns and the health realities than we 40+ women ever were. While there may be pockets of women in the U.S. who are persuaded by pink and flowers and “lusciousness” – my bet is that any buzz won’t last too long and Camel will be wondering why their “pink thinking” didn’t work.