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Antismoking activist calls Rolling Stone insert "One great big cigarette ad"


By Stuart Elliott

New York Times
November 25, 2007

An insert in Rolling Stone magazine sponsored by Camel cigarettes is under fire from antismoking activists because, they say, it blurs the line between advertising and editorial content — and worse yet, features cartoons.

The insert was among several in the Nov. 15 issue, celebrating the magazine’s 40th anniversary. All the inserts were what the industry calls butterfly gates — ad pages on the outside, which unfold to reveal pages of articles inside.

In this instance, the Camel ads promoted a campaign and Web site devoted to “free range music” (, which supports independent record labels. The article inside, “Indie Rock Universe,” presented lists of independent bands and fanciful illustrations of planets, animals and spaceships by Benjamin Marra.

“This is one great big cigarette ad,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the organization, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in Washington.

“The fact that Rolling Stone produced the content, but displayed it in such a manner that it is indistinguishable from the Camel ad, only makes them an accomplice,” he added.

The insert may also violate the 1998 settlement between tobacco companies and state attorneys general, Mr. Myers said, because the illustrations look like cartoons, which can no longer be used in cigarette ads.

The insert is particularly egregious, he added, because Camel “is most notorious for using cartoon characters to market cigarettes to children with the now-banned Joe Camel.”

David Howard, a spokesman for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco in Winston-Salem, N.C., the unit of Reynolds American that sells Camels, disputed the complaint. There was a clear delineation, he said, between “our ads on the outside pages” of the insert and “the inside foldout, which is all editorial content from Rolling Stone.”

At Rolling Stone, a unit of Wenner Media in New York, the publisher, Ray Chelstowski, said Reynolds “had no idea it would take a cartoon format” because “the advertisers don’t know” in advance about articles. just as “the editors don’t see the advertising.”

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