Joe Camel’s Tracks

The FDA can prove tobacco companies put cigarettes where kids are likely to be.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Why is the tobacco industry resisting the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to crack down on tobacco sales to minors?

Because the tobacco industry needs kids. Each year, about 1.3 million smokers kick the habit. Another 420,000 die. To replace these ex-smokers, the tobacco industry works hard to recruit young people. “Each and every day, another 3,000 teenagers become smokers,” says FDA Commissioner David Kessler. “Young people are the tobacco industry’s primary source of new customers in this country.”

The average smoker begins by age 15, and is a daily smoker by age 18. Though smoking levels are declining among adults, smoking is on the rise among those under 19. Michele Bloch of the American Medical Women’s Association warns that kids who start smoking every day end up as statistics a few decades later. “Fully half of all long-term smokers, especially those who begin in their teenage years, will be killed by tobacco,” Bloch says. “Of those, half will die early, in middle age.”

The FDA has amassed enormous quantities of evidence that prove tobacco companies deliberately target kids. An R.J. Reynolds subsidiary in Canada, in a report titled “Youth 1987,” studied the attitudes of “young men and women in the 15 to 24 age range,” noting that the research could be “applied to better decision-making in regard to products and programs directed at youth.” An earlier Philip Morris report stated, “The 16- to 20-year-old begins smoking for psychosocial reasons. The act of smoking is symbolic: It signifies adulthood. He smokes to enhance his image in the eyes of his peers.”

Similarly, in a memo from 1990, R.G. Warlick, an RJR division manager in Oklahoma, urges his tobacco sales representatives to emphasize sales calls to stores “located across from, adjacent to, [or] in the vicinity of the High Schools.” And no wonder: RJR’s Joe Camel campaign, backed by a company research program called FUBYAS (First Usual Brand Young Adult Smokers), pushed Camel’s share of the youth market from roughly 3 percent in 1988 to 13 percent in 1993. A 1991 survey in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Joe Camel is as recognizable to 6-year-olds as Mickey Mouse.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate