RJR Stoops to New Low With Camel Ad Campaign, Violates Trademarks

Three Attorneys General demand immediate end to campaign

A new advertising campaign for Camel cigarettes, the second-most smoked cigarette brand among teens, has raised the ire of three state Attorneys General.

As part of the campaign, R.J. Reynolds mails an envelope to individuals on their birthday which reads: “Camel – It’s your Birthday. Drinks on us.” Inside the envelope are six different drink coasters, each with a recipe for mixed drinks with high alcohol content and tag lines that promote excessive and irresponsible drinking such as, “LAYER IT ON. GO ‘TIL DAYBREAK,” “MIX THREE SHOTS TOGETHER OVER ICE, THEN MAKE SURE YOU’RE SITTIN’,” and “POUR OVER ICE, THEN LET IT BURN.” One recipe calls for 5 shots of rum and a can of frozen lemonade, blended and poured in one tall glass. “Kiss Your Worries Goodbye.”

In a letter to R.J. Reynolds, New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer demand an immediate end to the campaign.

“This promotion is a complete abomination,” said Attorney General Spitzer. “Virtually every parent in America knows what it is like to anxiously wait for a child to come home from a night out with friends, worrying that someone will be drinking and driving. Now R.J. Reynolds – apparently not satisfied just selling its own deadly products – is encouraging individuals to ‘celebrate’ their birthdays by abusing alcohol. It is just shameful.”

If anyone needed further evidence that R.J.Reynolds has not changed, this latest marketing campaign should provide proof,” said Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

“Binge drinking is a major public health issue nationwide, especially on college campuses, which makes this campaign even more appalling,” said J. Edward Hill, President of the American Medical Association. “Research shows the adverse health impacts of smoking and alcohol are increased when these two addictive products are used together.”

Attorneys General Spitzer, Lockyer and Curran initially wrote to Reynolds in November, demanding that the company discontinue the program because of the grave public health concerns raised by this promotion of excessive drinking, particularly among young adults. The Attorneys General’s letter also referred to significant scientific research showing that the combined use of cigarettes and alcohol presents health risks over and above the risks posed by smoking alone.

The drink coasters specifically mention well-known brands of alcohols, including Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort, Finlandia Vodka, Kahlua, Bacardi Limon, and Baileys. The Attorneys General therefore also wrote to the four major distillers who produce those products, to determine whether they were participating in the advertising campaign.

All four distillers indicated that they previously were not aware of the promotion. Moreover, the distillers noted that the promotion would violate the alcohol industry’s advertising code, which specifically prohibits marketing practices that encourage excessive drinking, promote the intoxicating effects of alcohol consumption, or urge individuals to drink as a rite of passage into adulthood. The distillers have all written to Reynolds, asserting that Reynolds has violated their trademark rights and demanding that Reynolds “cease and desist” the promotional campaign, or face potential litigation. Reynolds has refused those requests.

Spitzer, Lockyer and Curran therefore wrote to Reynolds again today, expressing their outrage and disappointment with Reynolds’ refusal to discontinue this irresponsible promotion. The letter states that Reynolds “is promoting unsafe alcohol consumption” and asserts that Reynolds’ “disregard for public health as demonstrated in this marketing campaign is unconscionable.”

By Joseph Cherner

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