Smoke and Mirrors
Although the new Camel No. 9 cigarette’s manufacturer seeks to entice women with flavor and style, Sandy Hornung, 62, Olathe, said there is nothing glamorous about smoking-related cancer.
“I’m amazed. I saw this young woman smoking today and I just kind of looked at her like, ‘Are you crazy?'” Hornung said.
When diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer at age 37, Hornung said knowing she might die became frightening. Hornung said she started smoking at 18.
American Cancer Society statistics show 90 percent of adult smokers became addicts by age 18.
Hornung dealt with hair loss and vomiting during chemotherapy and radiation. As far as the Camel No. 9 campaign, Hornung said people need to decide what they want.
“I’m sure seeing that they may think it’s sophisticated to smoke,” Hornung said. “I think it would be nice (if) they wouldn’t allow it. It comes down to the fact that people have to make their own choices.”
Camel No. 9 comes wrapped in sleek black and fuchsia or black and teal packaging. Heavy cardstock ads in women’s magazines such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan feature delicate flowers and boast about No. 9’s “light and luscious” flavors.
R.J. Reynolds spokesman David Howard, Winston-Salem, N.C., said company leaders held focus group sessions in early 2006 with about 2,000 women smokers to discuss the new cigarette.
“We came up with Camel No. 9 in response to female adult smokers who are asking for a product that better reflects their taste and style,” Howard said. “Ninety-five percent marked it as ‘a product for me.'”
Howard said R.J.
Reynolds wants to expand beyond male smokers. “Camel was underdeveloped with women,” Howard said. “We wanted the opportunity to grow the share of the market amongst adult female smokers.” According to R.J. Reynolds data, 19 million out of 20 million women smokers do not smoke Camels.
“They are smoking a competitor’s brand,” Howard said. “We wanted to come up with a concept that would be clearly, responsibly marketed to that audience.”
Company leaders decided the name Camel No. 9 “evokes positive images.”
“We thought it was very classy,” Howard said. “Like ‘dressed to the nines,’ an image that adult smokers identify with.”
Howard said the campaign does not target underage females.
“We have no interest in communicating to anyone but adult smokers,” Howard said.
In a society where one in five women smokes, Camel’s promotion of No. 9 outrages some health experts, including Kansas City American Heart Association Executive Director Nicole Stuke.
“Tobacco use remains the single most preventable cause of death in the United States,” Stuke said. “With more than 178,000 women dying every year from smoking-related diseases, it’s unsettling that the tobacco industry feels the need to recruit more people to consume their harmful products.
Tactics like these underscore the need for Congress to grant the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products in much the same way they regulate other consumer products on the market.”
Camel No. 9 marketing concerns anti-tobacco lobbyists, including Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids Outreach Director Victoria Almquist, Washington.
“I bought a pack to show the women in my office and they kept saying how beautiful it was,” Almquist said. “It really does look like a box for Chanel perfume. It struck me as very clever marketing and I could see how this would be appealing to young women.”
Almquist called the tobacco company’s appeal to young women and children deplorable.
“Our studies show that most advertising done for Camel No. 9 is point of sale, which means that convenience stores are saturated with pictures and displays for Camel No. 9,” Almquist said. “We found out that 75 percent of teens visit a convenience store once a week; adults don’t go into convenience stores as much as kids do. Point of sale marketing really gets to teens.”
Almquist said she got a call from an alarmed parent who looked through a package her daughter received in the mail. The parent thought the package contained skin care product samples but instead contained a Camel No. 9 promotional kit complete with an offer for a free pack of cigarettes.
Besides direct mail, Camel No. 9 promoters have appealed to women by throwing spa nights and ladies nights at dance clubs. Spa nights included manicures, facials and goody bags.
The Federal Trade Commission reported the company has spent almost $50 million to market the cigarette.
“The tobacco industry targeting women is nothing new,” Almquist said. “It started in the ’30s where they had the ‘Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet’ ads in magazines. Those ads were horrifying.”
Almquist said the government exempts tobacco products from basic health regulations that apply to other products, such as food, drugs and dog food.
“We’re working on bills in the House and the Senate to push for regulation,” Almquist said. “Historically, tobacco products are not regulated products. You know your lipstick and dog food and know what it contains. (Tobacco companies) can change their ingredients all the time and don’t have to tell anyone.”
Almquist said people should write their legislators about how tobacco companies target women.
Rebecca Flann, 23, Overland Park, said she believes the new cigarette targets young women such as herself.
“The way it’s packaged, they are obviously trying to get women to think it’s cool and sophisticated,” Flann said.
After trying Camel No. 9, Flann said she considered the taste lighter than other cigarettes but did not want to buy them.
“I don’t really care about the way it looks that much. A cigarette is a cigarette,” Flann, a smoker, said.
Gino Hernandez, employee at the 125th Street and Quivira Road Phillips 66, said Camel No. 9 sales have roller-coastered.
“They started off really good,” Hernandez said. “We sold about six or seven cartons a week during the first month, but it’s died down.”
Hernandez said a “mainly younger crowd” purchases the cigarettes.
Decloud Studio employee Dayna Schroeder said the cigarette tastes good.
“I like the Turkish tobacco flavor,” Schroeder said. “It’s a lighter taste than Marlboro Lights.”
Schroeder said she would not purchase cigarettes based on looks, but she understands how the packaging appeals to young women.
“I can see how some women may be affected by it,” Schroeder said. “(The packaging) will catch your eye. I’m always drawn to Camel because of the images and I’ve tried the different flavors.”
Tobacco products and women make an unhealthy combination, University of Kansas Medical Center physician Charles Porter said.
“Smoking takes a toll on the entire reproductive process,” Porter said. “There’s an amazing array of bad things that happen to your body when you smoke.
“Smoking reduces placental blood flow and directly damages the infant’s lungs.”
Porter said studies show the death rate for infants becomes three or four times higher when women smoke during and after pregnancy.
He said exposing an infant to secondhand smoke “doubles the risk that the baby will die.”
Hornung said she wished people knew how smoking affects their health.
“I would want them to know that it can happen to them,” Hornung said. “It causes circulation problems and various kinds of cancers. I think the best advice is to never start smoking. It is very addictive behavior.”
Cancer is one of several smoking-related diseases.
“For women, the cancer most associated with smoking is cervical,” Porter said. “Men and women both can get lung and bladder cancer as well as leukemia from smoking.”
Porter said smoking facts contrast with beautiful women featured in advertisements.
“Studies have also shown that premature wrinkles on the face and all over the body can be caused by smoking,” Porter said. “When people smoke, the aging process is accelerated. People can look 20 years older than they are because of it.”
Although cancer-free now, Hornung said cancer changed her life completely and she credits her family, friends and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for her survival.
Almquist said the debate about marketing a disease-causing product will exist as long as the tobacco industry exists.
“Women should be outraged by this. Everyone should be,” Almquist said.
Source: Holly Kramer, Shawnee/Lenexa Sun
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