The ads for Camel No. 9 cigarettes -- which ran in magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Glamour -- were a hit with girls aged 12 to 16.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, surveyed 1,036 tweens and teens about the cigarette ads. Alongside the ads were promotional giveaways of such items as berry-flavored lip balm, cell-phone jewelry, purses and wristbands.
Even though tobacco-company reps say the ads were aimed at adults, anti-smoking advocates weren't buying it. Cheryl Healton, president of the anti-smoking group the American Legacy Foundation, says the ads were clearly noticed by teenagers. In 2008, a year after the ads debuted, 22 percent of teen girls said Camel had their favorite cigarette ads -- twice the number of those who answered Camel in other interviews. Study authors say that clearly shows that the campaign -- not the brand -- captured the teens' attention.
In 1998, when Big Tobacco settled the huge lawsuit against them, they agreed not to target kids with advertisements. R.J. Reynolds, the maker of Camel, disputed that the ads were targeted to the younger set, noting that 85 percent of the readers of these magazines are over 18.
And it's not just brand-recognition that is a problem. Study authors say that having a fave ad can lead to smoking. Nonsmoking teens who can name a favorite ad are 50 percent more likely to begin smoking than other kids, the study says.
The American Cancer Society points out that ads don't need to feature cartoons to appeal to kids. In fact, ads that portray smoking as adult, grownup and cool make it more attractive to teens. Shockingly, 80 percent of smokers start before they turn 18.
What do you think? Much ado about nothing, or are these ads really dangerous?