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The already-endangered species known as Joe Camel faces a new threat of extinction as the Federal Trade Commission staff is recommending action be taken against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s advertising for Camel cigarettes.

Joe's fate in a second round before the FTC seems to depend on two new commissioners and a public suggestion that the FTC has "new evidence."

A 1994 probe into Joe Camel ads was closed, but FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky and member Christine Varney have since joined the commission. The previous vote to close the investigation was 3 to 2 and two commissioners in the '94 majority-Mary Azcuenaga and Roscoe B. Starek III-remain.

The agency declined to detail the evidence it has obtained.

"There has been no substantive new evidence that changes where we all stood in June of 1994, when the FTC closed its case," said an RJR spokeswoman.


Tobacco critics, however, point to documents that have surfaced in lawsuits against tobacco companies, plus information the Food & Drug Administration gathered as part of its rulemaking procedure in favor of tobacco ad limits.

Documents from lawsuits include a 1976 RJR report that says, in part, "evidence is now available to indicate that the 14-to-18-year-old group is an increasing segment of the smoking population. RJR must soon establish a successful new brand in this market if our position in the industry is to be maintained over the long term."

RJR said that document was a draft and lawyers who got it also got a final version with all suggestion of targeting teens dropped, clearly indicating the draft language wasn't company policy.


"It's disingenuous at best, and dishonest at worst, to quote from a document and suggest it represents our position when they had access to the final version and know it did not," said the RJR spokeswoman.

While Joe isn't part of a new print campaign from Mezzina/ Brown, New York, the character is still being used in other advertising and remains an important symbol for RJR.

The FTC's unusual acknowledgment of its staff recommendation comes little more than two weeks before RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp.'s vote on several resolutions offered by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, including one that would ban the use of Joe in advertising.

That resolution is getting unusually strong support among government pension funds, according to Pensions & Investments, and while unlikely to be approved

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