Curious smokers of both genders have been buying new cigarettes allegedly marketed toward women, while health advocates continue to bristle at the advertising campaign accompanying the new product.
The name of the cigarette, No. 9, calls to mind the name of famous perfumes No. 5 and No. 19 by the legendary design house Chanel. The smokes come in a black box, said to be “dressed to the nines,” trimmed with fuchsia accents. Then there’s the song “Love Potion No. 9” and the movie by the same name that gave Sandra Bullock her big break.
When Janine Paczelt, a manager at The Cigarette Outlet in West Bend was asked about a new cigarette brand, she knew immediately it would be the new Camel.
“Because it’s been on the news, and because it’s the new cigarette – and the new cigarette always causes controversy,” Paczelt said. “Yes, I carry them and, yes, people have asked for them.”
Most of Paczelt’s customers seem to buy cigarettes based on price first, then taste. She wasn’t sure how they responded to marketing strategies. She said she had only tried one “No. 9” and described the heaviness of the smoke as between a regular Camel and a Camel Light.
Paczelt said she had a mix of grown men and women asking for the cigarette – no teenagers – more than once a week in the three weeks the outlet has carried it.
“I don’t know the whole women versus men,” said Mary Simon, director of the Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse of Washington County. “I know with the marketing to young people some of the tobacco advocates talk about is that it’s more brand recognition – to get kids familiar with their brand so when they are able to legally make that choice they know they’ve heard about a brand.”
Simon said a lot of women continue to smoke because when they stop they gain weight, which makes the No. 9 tagline, “light and luscious” particularly poignant given research has proven an undeniable link between smoking and heart disease and cancer – the top two causes of death among women.
Maggie Seideman is in charge of programming for cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and wellness for SynergyHealth St. Joseph’s Hospital in West Bend, which helps people re-build body strength and make healthy choices following a cardiopulmonary health event.
“We’re seeing them when they need something more than changing brands,” Seideman said. “What brings people to the realization that they need to quit the use of tobacco – even though they’ve smoked for years and feel nothing will ever happen to me, or they’re addicted – is once they develop an issue with their breathing and their heart not working, the pain is greater than the pleasure.”
Seideman also leads a smoking cessation discussion group for people who haven’t had a major health event but want to quit smoking. She said she wasn’t sure how much brand marketing influenced smokers who were trying to quit.
She said no one on her staff had heard of the new cigarette until contacted by the Daily News, but soon after Jessica Podolski, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee nursing student shadowing the cardiopulmonary staff, received some promotional material in the mail.
“It’s actually kind of elaborate,” Podolski said. “It’s a big box with flowers on it and it says â€˜Camel,’ and when you open it up there’s an offer for a free cigarette case.”
Podolski is not a smoker, but signed up with a Camel promotions worker when she was out one night with a smoker friend in order to get more promotional gifts for her friend.
“Now I’m on their list,” said Podolski about the package. “It says â€˜show off smoking style’ or something ridiculous. It’s overly apparent that they’re targeting women. It aggravates me that they’re targeting young teenage girls.”
Podolski said she believes the advertising for No. 9’s in magazines targets underage girls because she couldn’t imagine an adult smoker switching brands because of pink accents on the package.
But Jess Paczelt, an employee at Smokes Cigarette Outlet in West Bend – and Janine’s daughter – said a lot of smokers were asking about the cigarette before it even came out, and not just women.
“It’s more a mix,” Jess Paczelt said. “There’s actually a lot of younger men who are buying them.”
The younger Paczelt said about five customers per day buy No. 9s, and the store always orders more for its biweekly delivery.
This story appeared in the West Bend Daily News on March 27, 2007.