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JOE CAMEL IS OFF THE FTC HOOK - NO HARD EVIDENCE TO NAIL HIM

SHARE JOE CAMEL IS OFF THE FTC HOOK - NO HARD EVIDENCE TO NAIL HIM

Federal regulators are dropping their investigation of Joe Camel, saying there's no hard evidence the hip cartoon character is inducing minors to smoke.

Members of the Federal Trade Commission voted 3-2 May 31 against filing a complaint with an administrative law judge. Results of the vote were not announced until Tuesday."Although it may seem intuitive to some that the Joe Camel advertising campaign would lead more children to smoke or lead children to smoke more, the evidence to support that intuition is not there," a commission statement said.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which uses Joe Camel to advertise Camel cigarettes, called the decision "a complete vindication."

"Despite awareness of the Joe Camel character, it has not changed youth's overwhelmingly negative opinions about smoking," company spokeswoman Peggy Carter said.

"We believe it is significant that the commission made its decision on the facts and the law and not, as they said, on `intuition' or on otherwise unfounded but emotionally appealing claims of some unqualified but self-proclaimed experts in the field of advertising."

Commissioners Mary L. Azcuenaga, Deborah Owen and Roscoe Starek III said they voted against taking any further action after weeks of grappling with statistics, studies and complex legal questions. The two remaining commissioners - Dennis Yao and Chairwoman Janet Steiger - released statements saying they were disappointed with the decision.

"I have reason to believe that the Camel campaign induced underage people to start smoking and that proceedings against such ads would be in the interest of the public," Steiger said.

"There is evidence that the carton character has appeal to minors and that Camel has increased its market share among minors," Yao said. "There is also evidence that the decade-and-a-half decrease in smoking among minors has slowed down in the time since the Joe Camel campaign began."