Critics Say Cigarette Aimed at Young Girls

The little black box is sleek and sophisticated. The name, Camel No. 9, sounds more like a perfume than a cigarette.

And then there are the ads.

"The colors are attractive," says Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., pointing to a glossy magazine ad with a bright pink border. "The words 'light' and 'luscious' make you think of a food product, something that tastes good, rather than some deadly product that's going to kill you."

Critics say Camel No. 9s, new cigarettes made by R.J. Reynolds, are clearly targeted at teenage girls. Last week, 42 members of Congress sent a letter to the editors of 11 major magazines, from Vogue to Cosmopolitan, asking them to stop running the ads.

Capps calls the ad campaign "the pink version of Joe Camel."

It's the latest round in the ongoing debate over tobacco marketing and kids.

Studies show that 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking while they were in their teens. And kids are more susceptible to advertising than adults.

Cigarette ads were banned from TV decades ago, and from billboards more recently. But print advertising remains legal, as long as it does not target minors.

R.J. Reynolds says its new product is aimed solely at adult women smokers.

"Camel No. 9 was developed in direct response to female adult smokers who told us that they wanted a product that better reflected their style and design and taste," said Cressida Lozano, vice president of marketing for Camel brands.

Critics say they've heard that line before. The controversial Joe Camel character was also supposedly aimed at adults. R.J. Reynolds ended that ad campaign as part of a court settlement.

"Every time we have tried to curtail tobacco industry marketing to kids they have found a new way to do so," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Anti-smoking groups are also suspicious of the new Camel Signature line, cigarettes with flavors and Starbucks-inspired names like "robust" or "infused."

Congress is considering a bill to give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco and tobacco advertising. In the meantime, antismoking activists are hoping public pressure will lead more magazines to reject cigarette ads like those for Camel No. 9.