Federal Trade Commission Dismisses Joe Camel Complaint

For Release


The Federal Trade Commission today announced that it has dismissed the case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for its Joe Camel advertising campaign. The Commission decided that the relief it sought against Reynolds for unfair and unlawful marketing of cigarettes to children is largely accomplished by the recent multistate tobacco settlement and revisions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ data collection protocol.

In May 1997, the Commission alleged that Reynolds, through its Joe Camel advertising campaign, unlawfully caused or was likely to cause substantial and ongoing injury to the health and safety of children and adolescents under the age of 18. The agency sought an order (1) prohibiting Reynolds from advertising to children Camel cigarettes through the use of themes or images relating to "Joe Camel"; (2) requiring that Reynolds disseminate public education messages discouraging persons under 18 from smoking; and (3) requiring the company to collect and make available data concerning the sales of each brand of its cigarettes to persons under 18 and each brand’s share of smokers under 18.

According to the Commission’s order dismissing the complaint without prejudice, the November 23, 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with 46 attorneys general and five major cigarette companies addresses the first and second issues. That agreement, the Commission said, "specifically bans the use of all cartoon characters, including Joe Camel, in the advertising, promotion, packaging, and labeling of any tobacco product ... [and] the settlement requires the tobacco companies to help finance a national public education fund designed to carry out on a nationwide basis sustained advertising and education programs to counter underage usage of tobacco products and to educate consumers about the causes of prevention of diseases associated with the use of tobacco products."

With regard to the third issue, the Commission said that the "Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is revising the protocol for its annual national household survey on drug abuse to add specific questions to elicit brand share of smokers under 18."

Therefore, the Commission concluded that the relief it sought "should be accomplished without the need for further litigation in this case [and that] the public interest warrants dismissal of the complaint."

The Commission’s order also addressed other requests relating to third-party document submissions.

The Commission vote to dismiss the complaint without prejudice was 4-0.

Copies of the order dismissing complaint are available from the FTC's web site at: http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.

(Docket No. 9285)

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Victoria Streitfeld,
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2718