Deconstructing Tobacco

The RJR documents on Camels and kids—a MoJo Wire annotation.


It’s not often evidence emerges that shows a corporation contemplating a life of crime as part of its overall marketing strategy. Then again, only few companies make a product that, as the old joke goes, kills you when used as directed.

As part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought against R.J. Reynolds by more than a dozen California cities and counties for targeting children with its marketing campaigns, the cigarette-maker recently released thousands of pages of confidential marketing documents, many of which reveal how the company hoped to “youthen [its] brand” by targeting “the 14 to 24 age group.”

RJR denies the documents were ever meant to be implemented as part of a marketing strategy. Perhaps. But it is interesting to note that the documents below—with all their “cool attitudes” references—were written in 1986, two years before the introduction of our favorite, recently departed phallic symbol, Joe Camel.

Marketing to children is one thing, but there’s something else going on here—an abstract academese that conspires with smoke-blowing adspeak to produce a work of such euphemistic repetition that we can’t help but wonder if perhaps a new addition to the Surgeon General’s disclaimer repertoire is in order: WARNING: Selling cigarettes may cause brain damage, and may complicate candor, decency, and the ability to communicate without using phrases like “full/authentic smoking satisfaction.”

For your full reading satisfaction, we’ve annotated one of the latest “smoking gun” documents. Just move your mouse over the highlighted areas—and enjoy.

Start here.

G. Beato is a regular contributor to Suck and Mother Jones.