Joe Camel is drawing more fire for moving from advertising to actual cigarette packages.
Anti-smoking groups contend Joe Camel's cartoon ads for R.J. Reynolds' Camel cigarettes attract children.RJR says it doesn't target Joe and cartoon friends Josephine, Eddie, Floyd, Max and Buster to children, and the Federal Trade Commission tacitly agreed by never acting on a surgeon general's request to ban the ads.
Now Joe and friends are featured on a five-pack collectors' series of Camel cigarettes, and anti-smokers are again asking the FTC to intervene.
The Action on Smoking and Health is preparing a petition asking the FTC to ban any cartoon character - not just Joe - from gracing a cigarette package.
"This is a cooler thing than the packs with the 40-year-old picture of a real camel in front of a pyramid," ASH director John Banzhaf said Friday. "To permit them to exploit a child's fascination with cartoon characters . . . is wrong."
The five-pack series hit store shelves nationwide in February, said RJR spokeswoman Maura Ellis. It's not the first time Joe has graced cigarette packages - he did so to celebrate Camel's 75th anniversary in 1987.
The series is aimed at people who collect cigarette packages, not children, who are prohibited from buying cigarettes anyway, she said. "The person who is selling that pack of cigarettes, which is not us . . . has to be held accountable for upholding that law," she said.