I am dismayed by the colorful full-page advertisement for Camel smokeless tobacco on page 19 of the March 11 New Times. The ad’s “Break Free” slogan is contradictory in so many ways. The clever but ironic marketing schemes of the tobacco industry would have us believe we can “break free” from cigarette smoking to a safe alternative, smokeless tobacco. In reality, smokeless tobacco contains more than 2000 chemicals, many of which are high-level carcinogens that cause deadly, debilitating cancers. Smokeless tobacco increases risks of coronary artery disease, and consequently, risk for strokes and heart attacks.
There are abundant data that show tobacco companies are feverishly trying to augment their smokeless tobacco market. The industry is targeting new users (especially youth) with milder, lower- nicotine level products that often have alluring flavors (such as the Wintergreen flavor in the ad) with the knowledge that eventually, the user will prefer products with higher nicotine content as his or her addiction intensifies. Furthermore, tobacco companies know that adolescents who start using smokeless tobacco are much more likely to start smoking cigarettes, negating the “break free” concept. Despite the ad’s claim, you cannot judge this product by its cover.
The liberation implied in Camel’s “Break Free” ad reflects how shrewd the tobacco industry is. There is no freedom to be found in smokeless tobacco. There is freedom only in being nicotine-addiction free and realizing the tobacco industry has no interest in anyone’s freedom or wellbeing.