Mar. 16, 2009 Gotta put my cranky pants on again….
R.J.Reynolds is lighting the fuses of frustrated parents by offering Camel nicotine laced ‘orbs, strips, and sticks’ coming at kids in the mints and gum portion of the candy aisle right near the checkout.
That’s right, dissolvable nicotine. Cigs are off limits, Joe Camel is kaput, so now we’ve got fresh breath-freshener lookalike melt away strips and Altoid style tins with smokeless tobacco, eh?
Gotta hook ‘em while they’re young SOMEhow, right?
Oh, that’s right, these are supposedly for ‘over 18.’—That’s why Camel ads have the cutie patootie young girl grinning atcha…
But don’t worry, kids, the American Cancer Society has repeatedly reminded that children tend to become addicted more quickly, so we can always blame ‘bad parenting’ on your purchase, or hey, maybe the cashier who doesn’t even look up from the conveyor belt scanning the candy-clever packaging. (here’s how to support stronger FDA legislation)
I’ve written extensively about the deliberate targeting of teen girls with their Camel pink think and Euro Pink Dreams cigs, but a big thank you to marketer Allison Ellis over at Targeting Kids who not only concurred but nailed it when she asked,
“Is there anything about this product that isn’t designed with kids in mind? Let’s see… the candy-like flavor? The youthful colors and packaging? The cute camel silhouette? The highly addictive nature of the product? The fact that it’s technically “off limits?”
Moreover, the nicotine delivery of the products is quite high…A cigarette smoker typically takes in about 1 milligram of nicotine, which matches the exact content of ONE orb. (or pellet, or pill, or tablet or whatever you want to call it) Camel Sticks (resembling toothpicks) have TRIPLE that amount with 3.1 mg of nicotine PER stick and they’re due to be released in Spring 2009, with the Strips (.6 nicotine) to follow in the summer. Just ducky. (video after the jump)
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says “They’re likely to appeal to children because they are flavored and packaged like candy, are easy to conceal even in a classroom and carry the Camel brand that is already so popular with underage smokers.”
USA Today quotes Gregory Connolly of Harvard School of Public Health, “This is a wake-up call for the public health community…It’s a total sea change.”
Teens will no doubt tell me to ‘get over myself’ and ‘get a life’ and all those other niceties landing on my tobacco posts from those who think they’re ‘old enough to decide for themselves’ citing the free agency argument.
But I’m always the critic of marketing harm, so need to remind kids about context, age and health ramifications differentials, and of course, how this kind of marketing repeatedly trickles down to ever-younger audiences of 8-12 year old tweens, who follow closely in the footsteps of siblings.
Camel hawking nicotine in the candy aisle and thinking they should get a hallpass for slapping on an age disclaimer and ‘child-resistant packaging’ is bupkiss on the accountability front.
Corporations and agency creatives keep manufacturing this ‘oh so brazenly edgy’ slop to leverage the developmental ‘risk-taking’ age, not to mention being busted time and again with studies that show tobacco companies are CLEARLY targeting kids and worse yet, it’s working.
“We’ve got cranked up candy bars with caffeine, Hershey’s ‘oopsie’ on the dime pouch of Ice (breakers) mint powder, Go Daddys’ purposeful sleaze to get press by having their Superbowl ads rejected, and Woolworths’ staff ‘baffled by the fuss’ of the ‘naming mistake’ of the “Lolita line” of beds for girls…pushed pink think onto the most vulnerable market segment quite strategically (studies show girls get addicted faster) I’d say, yah, there’s no doubt a smokeless tobacco and nicotine work-around was in the offing…
After all, I just saw an ad for a ‘BK burger shot’ (nothing like normalizing binge drinking and junk food in one tidy hipster marketing messaging)… I’d say we’re reaching the tipping point of toxicity where there’s not much left in the ‘outrageous’ department.
We’re getting so blasé in our ‘edginess’ these days, n’est ce pas?
Hey, maybe that’s an answer in itself…a mass media mindshift toward the positive, based on utter evaporation of the vice du’ jour as we’re running out of types of shock schlock to peddle in ‘been there done that’ mode?
Danny McGoldrick, research director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, reported in US News and World Report, “For companies that claim not to market to kids anymore, they sure do a good job of getting them to use their product.”
“When you are close to 90 percent market share among these three brands, (Marlboro/Philip Morris, Camel/R.J. Reynolds and Newport/Lorillard Inc.) they are doing something right,” he said.
Yup. And in this case, ‘right’ is wrong.
CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that 78 percent of middle school students and 87 percent of high-school students prefer to smoke these three brands.
Toss in the notion that the FDA doesn’t have the authority to regulate tobacco marketing that kills “half the people that use it and 90% of the users start as children” he said.
In 2008 alone, Tobacco Free Kids reports 559,863 kids have become regular smokers and 186,621 will die prematurely from their addiction.
Yowza. Put that in your pocket and smoke it. (or, um, suck on it, or whatever you do with the toxic crud)
Reactions from within the Shaping Youth corridor?
“I think it’s time to storm the nicotine Bastille. This is about as disturbing as any new product offering I’ve seen in a long time,” said Shaping Youth’s podcast pal and thought leader Brad Reddersen of Stranova.
Temple University Media Education Lab PhD student Kelly Mendoza added,
“This is highly disturbing because of the pill/candy form–inconspicuous, easy to take, and speaks to the normalization of our “pill-popping” culture. The girl in that ad looks so young!”
(Part of the NAMLE grad student caucus, Kelly also helped develop, implement, and evaluate the online gaming project Tobacco Education in Media, in 2002 to impart media literacy skills about tobacco representation in film.)
And then a few comments from Shaping Youth tween and teen advisors, offering a broad range:
…“ugh. That’s so lame,” (cue disgusted eyeroll)
…“I don’t see the big deal if they’re not able to sell it to under 18s” (right, I’ll depend on that checkout clerk to make the judgment call)
…“If kids are gonna smoke and do stupid stuff they’re gonna do it anyway, this just makes it easier to hide.” (um, exactly my point).
Gee, thanks Camel, for giving parents another watchdog vigilance role to add to our very full plate.
No worries, you can always blame ‘bad parenting’ for ‘not catching’ it or ‘keeping an eye on’ the kids, or ‘raising them to know better’ or ‘talking to them’ about nicotine, drugs, alcohol, energy drinks, whatever…sigh.
Camel can coast on their handy dandy disclaimer, and maybe some child advocate backlash will relocate the junk from the mints and gum aisle…but I wouldn’t count on any shift in the ethical stream from the tobacco industry.
…Not while that young girl is smiling in the ad in a classic associative marketing ploy…
Besides, there’s historic precedent here, as Stuart Elliot’s New York Times piece, “When Doctors and Even Santa Endorsed Tobacco” conveys. (1951 ad at left and NYT photo gallery of similar spins will give you a jarring wake-up call from days of yore when people ‘didn’t know any better,’ so to speak)
But hey gang, news-flash, we know NOW.
This calls for viral mockery from teens in the same way they created those hilarious HFCS counter-marketing commercials.
Just think of what we could do with that poor girls’ nicotine smile…Let’s get on it, team. I think I’ll call agency guy Rye Clifton, who did the Unilever riff on the Axe/Dove mashup.
Meanwhile, have at it kids…It’s satire sketch time. This is YOUR life they’re toying with here…and your little sisters and brothers, too.
1:22 Video from Good Housekeeping Inc. re: Look-Alikes
Shaping Youth’s Resource Round-Up
Teen Smoking and Tobacco Issues:
Tobacco.org: Tobacco industry’s helpful, newsy links & updated feeds of all things tobacco, even has a teen smoking/youth category to track articles pertaining to kids: wonder if this Shaping Youth blog post will end up there…
Related Resources on Camel Orbs, Sticks and Dissolvable Strips
- Parents beware: New dissolvable tobacco products coming soon
- New tobacco products tested on Portland market
- Tobacco Industry Update NEW TOBACCO PRODUCT ALERT
- New Tobacco Products Tested on Portland Market
- Word of Mouth Success of dissolvable tobacco rides on consumer buy-in, communicating purpose
- ‘Camel Dissolvables’ head for Portland
- Tobacco orbs Melts in the Mouth
- Reynolds American to sell dissolvable tobacco
- Clearing the Air
- Brandweek Says RJR Will Roll Out Dissolvable Tobacco Alternatives to Cigarettes Next Year
- RJ Reynolds Dissolvable Tobacco
- Reynolds Moves To Be On Top When Smoke Clears
- Snus, Sticks, Orbs and Strips (Oh, My)