The American Heart Association, American Lung Association and several other health groups are asking at least two state attorneys to investigate a new Camel cigarette ad campaign.
The group says the Camel Crush cigarette ads ran in 24 magazines that target young people and may violate the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. The landmark agreement, among other measures, prohibits cigarette makers from targeting kids.
Reynolds American Inc. spokesman Richard Smith said that the company, which owns the Camel brand, believes the ads are in full compliance with the settlement. Additionally, he said the company reviews the readership data and analyzes the editorial content of the publications it advertises in to ensure it is focused largely on adults; it only advertises in magazines whose adult readership is 85 percent or higher.
The ad, which the health groups say appeared in magazines such as Sports illustrated and People, promotes the company's Camel Crush brand, which a capsule in the cigarette's filter to release menthol flavor.
It is not the first time the Winston-Salem, N.C. company has faced criticism for its advertising.
Reynolds was widely criticized for years for using its Joe Camel cartoon character as a means to make smoking more attractive to kids. It has faced several lawsuits over a number of its ads.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. decided in 2007 to suspend its print ads for Camel cigarettes under intense criticism for its advertising. The company continued to advertise other Camel products such as its smokeless and dissolvable tobaccos.
The company said that it believes the marketing of tobacco products should not be targeted to minors and that the cigarettes are made for and marketed to adult tobacco consumers.
While print ads for tobacco are banned in a number of countries, they are legal in the United States. Tobacco advertising is already banned from the radio, television and billboards. Tobacco companies instead have relied on direct marketing and other methods to promote their products.
Menthol flavored cigarettes have also come in for scrutiny. Critics say they appeal to kids because the flavor masks the harsh taste of tobacco smoke. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is studying the effects of menthol flavoring in cigarettes on public health.