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Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007 02:45 am

Cancel Camel No. 9

Hyped as chic, it’s still the same old killer

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Untitled Document It’s sleek and sexy in design, packaged in a shiny black box with an elegant accent of teal or fuchsia, and it’s advertised in women’s magazines with the alluring slogan of “Light and luscious.”
Is it lingerie? Chocolate? Perfume? No. It’s a box of cancer sticks. Specifically, these are Camels, cigarettes put out by R.J. Reynolds — though these have been rebranded specifically for women under the evocative name of “Camel No. 9.” You know, like “Love Potion No. 9,” only without the love. Quick — what’s the No. 1 killer of women? Breast cancer, you say? Wrong. It’s lung cancer, by a large margin. More than 400,000 Americans — almost half of them women — die each year of diseases caused by smoking. Yet here comes Big Tobacco with another PR push to entice more people to get hooked on nicotine. And, like all of the industry’s advertising pushes, a pack of Camel No. 9 comes with a pack of corporate lies about how the cigarettes are only being marketed to adult women who already smoke. “What we’re about,” says a Camel spokeswoman, “is giving adult smokers a choice.”
Horse hockey. The new brand is being hyped as chic and fashionable, appealing directly to impressionable teens and young women through ads in Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and other magazines that reach the youth market. Indeed, tobacco companies are dependent on constantly hooking youngsters to replace older smokers who die or quit. In fact, 80 percent of new smokers are under the age of 18 — and a third of them will die as a result of smoking. Still, the corporate spokeswoman gushes that Camel No. 9 is part of R.J. Reynolds’ plans to “focus on products that are ‘wowв’ that add fun and excitement to the category.”
Yeah — nothing says “wow” like cancer.  

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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