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Joe Camel (officially Old Joe) was the advertising mascot for Camel cigarettes from late 1987 to July 12, 1997, appearing in magazine advertisements, billboards, and other print media.

A cigarette machine from the late 1980s or early 1990s, seen in 2008, featuring Joe Camel.


The R. J. Reynolds U.S. marketing team, looking for an idea to promote Camel's 75th anniversary, re-discovered Joe in the company's archives in the late 1980s.

Quote from The New York Times:
"Joe Camel was actually born in Europe. The caricatured camel was created in 1974 by a British artist, Billy Coulton, for a French advertising campaign that subsequently ran in other countries in the 1970s. Indeed, Mr. O'Toole recalled a visit to France many years ago during which he glimpsed Joe Camel wearing a Foreign Legion cap. The inspiration behind Mr. Price's cartoon was the camel, named Old Joe, that has appeared on all Camel packages since the brand's initial appearance in 1913."

Joe Camel first appeared in the U.S in 1988, in materials created for the 75th anniversary of the Camel brand by Trone Advertising. Trone is a mid-size agency in Greensboro, N.C., that Reynolds used on various advertising and promotional projects.


In 1991, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that more children 5 and 6 years old could recognize Joe Camel than they could recognize Mickey Mouse or Fred Flintstone, and alleged that the "Joe Camel" campaign was supposedly targeting children — despite R. J. Reynolds' contention that the campaign had been researched only among adults and was directed only at the smokers of other brands. At that time it was estimated that over 30% of all cigarettes sold in the U.S. were Marlboros. Subsequently, the American Medical Association asked R. J. Reynolds Nabisco to pull the campaign. R. J. Reynolds refused, and the Joe Camel Campaign continued. In 1991, Janet Mangini, a San Francisco-based attorney, brought a suit against R. J. Reynolds, challenging the company for targeting minors with its "Joe Camel" advertising campaign. In her complaint, Mangini alleged that teenage smokers accounted for US$476 million of Camel cigarette sales in 1992. When the Joe Camel advertisements started in 1988, that figure was only at US$6 million, "implicitly suggesting such advertisements have harmed a great many teenagers by luring them intoextended use of and addiction to tobacco products."

R. J. Reynolds to this day has denied Joe Camel was intended to be directed at children; the company maintains that Joe Camel's target audience was 25–49-year-old males and current Marlboro smokers. In response to the criticism, R. J. Reynolds instituted "Let's Clear the Air on Smoking", a campaign of full-page magazine advertisements consisting entirely of text, typically set in large type, denying those charges, and declaring that smoking is "an adult custom".

Internal documents produced to the court in Mangini v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, San Franciscomarker Superior Court No. 959516, demonstrated the industry's interest in targeting children as future smokers. The importance of the youth market was illustrated in a 1974 presentation by RJR's Vice-President of Marketing who explained that the "young adult market . . . represent[s] tomorrow's cigarette business. As this 14-24 age group matures,they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume -- for at least the next 25 years."A 1974 memo by the R. J. Reynolds Research Department points out that capturing the young adult market is vital because "virtually all [smokers] start by the age of 25" and "most smokers begin smoking regularly and select a usual brand at or before the age of 18."

In July 1997, under pressure from the impending Mangini trial, Congress and various public-interest groups, RJR announced it would settle out of court and voluntarily end its Joe Camel campaign. A new campaign with a more adult theme debuted: instead of Joe Camel, it had a plain image of a quadrupedal, non-anthropomorphic camel. This image is still used in advertisements for Camel today. As part of the agreement, RJR also paid $10 million to San Francisco and the other Californiamarker cities and counties whointervened in the Mangini litigation. This money was earmarked primarily to fund anti-smoking efforts targeted at youth.


  1. Elliott, Stuart. The Media Business: Advertising - Camel's Success and Controversy, December 12, 1991, The New York Times.
  2. Fischer PM, Schwartz MP, Richards JW Jr, Goldstein AO, Rojas TH. Brand logo recognition by children aged 3 to 6 years. Mickey Mouse and Old Joe the Camel. JAMA. 1991 Dec 11;266(22):3145-8. PMID 1956101
  3. Mangini v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 7 Cal. 4th 1057, 1073-74 (1994). R. J. Reynolds.
  4. Coughlin PJ, Janacek F Jr. A Review of R. J. Reynolds' Internal Documents Produced in Mangini vs. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Civil Number 939359: The Case that Rid California and the American Landscape of "Joe Camel". 1997.
  5. Tucker, CA. Presentation to the Board of Directors of RJR Industries (9/30/74). R. J. Reynolds.
  7. Coughlin PJ, Janacek F Jr. A Review of R. J. Reynolds' Internal Documents Produced in Mangini vs. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Civil Number 939359: The Case that Rid California and the American Landscape of "Joe Camel". 1997.

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