Camel Cash editorial
Your Camel Cash - or or 175 C-notes you can get a fishing vest "so smooth the fish'll jump just to get a look at it. Extra large front pocket for your smokes & flames." "C-notes" are play money offered by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to promote Camel cigarettes. The bills, also known as Camel Cash, feature Old Joe in sunglasses, aressea up m a George Washington wig and puffing on a cigarette. You get one C-note per pack. Smokers choose their C-note premiums from a catalog, available in convenience stores. If you want the military-looking thermos, which features Old Joe dressed in camouflage, you have to smoke 175 packs. For Jac Wilder Versteeg just 70 C-notes, you can get the neon-orange outdoor Zippo lighter. For 150 C-notes, you can get the camouflage cooler bench: "Whether you're in the outback or in the backyard," the catalog says, "you'll have the best seat in the house." There's Old Joe on the cooler, again dressed in camouflage. Outdoorsy products abound in the catalog. For 300 C-notes, there's the beach chair emblazoned with the old-fashioned Camel logo (the one with the pyramid and palm trees) and these witty words: "Don't stick your butt in the sand." There's a beach bag for 160 C-notes and a beach tank Gift Certificate top for just 30 C-notes, all with various Camel logos. Peggy Carter, a very personable spokesman for the company in Winston-Salem, N.C., says, "We've had a great deal of success with this program," which began in fall 1991. Without even being asked, Ms. Carter insists that the Camel Cash promotion isn't aimed at kids. She points out that people ordering have to sign a pledge that they are "a smoker 21 years of age or older ... I understand that giving false information to accept these offers may constitute a violation of law." Reality check. Is a 16-year-old who's broken the law 300 times by buying and smoking enough Camels for the beach chair really going to balk at signing that pledge? Is R.J. Reynolds really going to check? And is R.J. Reynolds really going to prosecute a minor who lies when signing the pledge? Ms. Carter insists the Camel Cash is aimed at wooing Marlboro smokers. But Marlboro won't just cough and keel over. Last month, Marlboro issued a catalog of its your life own. Rather than play money, Marlboro J uses what it calls "Adventure Team 1 Miles." Each Marlboro pack proof-of-pur- ' chase is worth 5 "Marlboro miles.", , I Like the Camel catalog, the Marlboro j selection is heavy on equipment for active i people. There's a cold-weather sleeping J bag (1,350 miles or 270 packs), a backpack (1,000 miles or 200 packs) and rain gear j (500 miles or 100 packs). All items promi-" nently feature the Marlboro logo. The outdoor emphasis in both catalog is an extension of those fantasy ads witr young, healthy models playing around in rugged, outdoor settings. More appropriate catalogs would offer oxygen supplies, wheelchairs, prosthetic lips, heart bypass" surgery and Old Joe camouflage coffins' 1 (500 C-notes). But tobacco company hypocrisy isn't,, the only reason for the catalogs' emphasis,; on gear that exudes health. Spokesmen for n both Camel and Marlboro told me that the"' catalog items were developed in discus--, sions with groups of smokers. In other', words, the items fit the smokers' percept tion of themselves as healthy, active pep That's the fantasy. What's the reality?"' "Most people," the Camel spokesman,' says, "order ashtrays or lighters. The smoking-related items." People who -smoke aren't athletes. They're smokers. And all C-notes get you is the Big C. " Jac Wilder Versteeg is an editorial writer for The Palm Beach Post.