Image: Camel cigarettes
Chuck Burton  /  AP file
“This Camel campaign is one of the most egregious, blatant attempts to make cigarette smoking sexy, cool and popular among teenage girls that we’ve seen in years,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
updated 5/4/2007 7:09:56 PM ET 2007-05-04T23:09:56

Five U.S. senators asked the Federal Trade Commission on Friday to investigate what they say are R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.’s attempts to appeal to teenage girls with ads for its sleekly packaged Camel No. 9 cigarettes.

R.J. Reynolds launched the brand in February. It says the cigarettes are aimed at adult female smokers, a market segment where Camel has performed poorly.

But anti-smoking groups and others have argued that the product — from its name, which recalls an upscale perfume, to the packaging to the ads — appears designed to lure teens or young women. The cigarettes come in black boxes with a border of teal or fuchsia. They’re advertised in women’s magazines under the slogan “Light and Luscious,” on textured paper adorned with images of red roses and lace.

“Camel No. 9 cigarettes are being advertised to appeal to teenage girls’ desire to be ’chic’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ ... Teenage girls are especially vulnerable to this kind of advertising pitch,” said Friday’s letter from the five Democrats to FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras.

“We believe it is time for the FTC to step in to protect our nation’s teenagers from cigarettes, a product that kills one-third of its users.”

The letter was e-mailed to The Associated Press by the office of Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, who initiated it. It was also signed by Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Illinois’ Dick Durbin, according to Lautenberg’s office.

The debate over the Camel campaign comes amid a renewed push for federal regulation of tobacco. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has reintroduced legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority over tobacco products that it has over many other consumer products.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said such legislation is needed to stop companies like R.J. Reynolds from marketing to young people.

“This Camel campaign is one of the most egregious, blatant attempts to make cigarette smoking sexy, cool and popular among teenage girls that we’ve seen in years,” Myers said.

A spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, a unit of Reynolds American Inc., could not be reached on Friday evening as their offices were closed. Last week, spokesman David Howard told The AP: “We’re trying to connect with women adult smokers. That is the only audience we’re interested in connecting with.”

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