Walk a mile for a Camel? Not in my state, Gregoire says

Gov. Chris Gregoire called out the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. on Monday, saying a special-edition line of Camel cigarettes marketed with Seattle imagery is “a one-way ticket to disease and addiction.”

R.J. Reynolds is rolling out a line featuring so-called hip cities around the country, including New Orleans, Austin, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

The Seattle pack states: “Home of grunge, a coffee revolution and alternatives who’ll probably tell you they’re only happy when it rains. It’s the smell of vinyl in that hidden record store, that worn T-shirt and a ticket stub with a scribbled phone number — all with the bold spirit of our Gold Rush ancestors who didn’t think twice before breaking free for the glowing future ahead.”

Gregoire said she is “alarmed and disappointed” by the packaging, which features the iconic Pike Place Market and Mount Rainier. (For images, read the Big Blog.)

“We have worked hard to help people break free from tobacco addiction and the suffering and death it causes individuals and families” the governor said in a prepared statement Monday. “Washington has 320,000 fewer adult smokers and 65,000 fewer youth smokers than before we started our Tobacco Prevention and Control Program 10 years ago.”

She added: “I call on R.J. Reynolds to halt their cynical campaign and not use our local landmarks for their gain.”

Mary Payne, a spokeswoman for North Carolina-based R.J. Reynold said the marketing is directed at existing adult customers.

“We certainly agree that youth should not use tobacco products,” she said in an e-mail to seattlepi.com. “Nothing in this promotion is an effort to appeal to youth.”

The promotion is part of a “Break Free Adventure” contest, and all promotion is done through e-mail, mail or an age-restricted website.

“Additionally, these packs, like all packs of cigarettes, are sold behind the counter at retail (non-self-service), and their sale is age restricted,” Payne said.

A code of conduct outlined on the company’s website says advertising campaigns should not “suggest that smoking is essential to social prominence, distinction, success or sexual attraction, nor shall it picture a person smoking in an exaggerated manner.”

The packaging also drew fire from King County Executive Dow Constantine, who said he was “offended by this multinational corporation appropriating our iconic regional images and culture to rope young people into deadly tobacco addiction.”

The campaign has also ruffled feathers in other featured cities, and was criticized last week by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“It is deeply disturbing that RJR is using the good name and hard-earned reputation of these great American cities to market deadly and addictive cigarettes, especially in a way that blatantly appeals to children,” the organization’s president Matthew Myers said. “Certainly the citizens and leaders of these cities do not want to be associated with a product that kills more than 400,000 Americans every year.”

Public officials in New York and San Francisco called the campaign “cynical” and shameful.

“This 10-city adventure game shamelessly appeals to youth by featuring cities, including San Francisco, that are associated with independent music, trendiness, rebellion and freedom,” San Francisco officials said in a letter to R.J. Reynolds.

source: seattlepi.com

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