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Teen Girls Say Pink Camel in Cigarette Ads Caught Their Eye

Study finds link between catchy ads and whether teens smoke

MONDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) --Years ago, a popular cigarette advertising campaign proudly proclaimed to women, "You've come a long way, baby!"

But a recent study of teens shows the war on cigarette advertising that targets teens, especially teenage girls, might still have a ways to go.

Although the 1998 settlement agreement between big tobacco and state governments restricted advertising to children and teens, nearly half of teenage girls participating in the study could name their favorite cigarette ad. What's more, the study found that teenagers who could name a favorite cigarette ad were 50 percent more likely to have smoked during the five-year study period.

One ad campaign in particular stood out in the minds of teen girls and increased their awareness of cigarette advertising, the study found. The product was Camel No. 9 cigarettes, and the ads featured a pink camel and a sub-brand of cigarettes called Stiletto. In addition to the very feminine ads placed in such magazines as Glamour and Vogue, the campaign also featured promotional giveaways, including flavored lip balm, purses and cell phone jewelry.

"These are the same people that brought us Joe Camel, a very big campaign with multiple different components," said study author John Pierce, a professor of family and preventive medicine and director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego. "Now it seems like what they're doing is trying a campaign, and then when people complain, they change and do something else."

R.J. Reynolds, which makes Camel No. 9, said that the product and the advertisements were not designed to attract teenagers. "Camel No. 9 was developed in response to female adult smokers, both of Camel and competitive brands, who were asking for a product that better reflected their taste preferences and style," according to a prepared statement issued by the tobacco company.

"When Camel No. 9 was launched in 2007, all magazine advertisements for it appeared in publications whose readership was at least 85 percent age 18 or older," the statement continued. "More importantly, R.J. Reynolds has not run any print advertising for cigarettes, including Camel No. 9, for more than two years, and there has been no in-store advertising for Camel No. 9 since 2008."

The study, published online March 15 in the journal Pediatrics, includes data from the fifth telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of teenagers that was designed to assess whether cigarette ads run after the tobacco settlement had any effect on adolescents.

The first survey was done in 2003 when the 1,036 children were 10 to 13 years old. The fifth survey was done in 2008.

The researchers found that, for boys, the proportion who had a favorite cigarette ad remained stable throughout the five surveys. For girls, however, there was a marked difference in the last study.

During the first four surveys, the number of girls who could identify a favorite tobacco ad remained about the same. But, during the last survey, which was conducted after the start of the Camel No. 9 campaign, the proportion of girls who had a favorite ad jumped by 10 percentage points, to 44 percent. The Camel brand was responsible for most of that increase, according to the study.

During the first four surveys, 10 percent to 13 percent of the girls said that Camel was their favorite ad. In the fifth survey, the number rose to 21.5 percent, the study reported.

"This article presents credible evidence that the Camel No. 9 cigarette advertising campaign has targeted underaged girls," the researchers wrote.

Targeted advertising, Pierce said, can be very hard for parents to counter. "Parents can try to focus on the issue and pay attention to it, but sometimes the adult admonishing something can be a green light for a teenager," he said. "Unfortunately, we don't have easy prevention strategies for parents to use."

He said that the American Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit anti-tobacco organization set up as a result of the tobacco settlement agreement, is working on ads that use social networking sites to try to counter some of the allure of tobacco among teenagers.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on combating teen smoking.

SOURCES: John P. Pierce, Ph.D., professor, family and preventive medicine, and director, Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Moores Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego; statement, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Winston-Salem, N.C.; March 15, 2010, Pediatrics, online

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