Beyonce Glamorizes Stress-Triggered Smoking in "Why Don't You Love Me"

July 30, 2010 9:45 AM by reedd

Reed Dunn, Recruitment Marketing Manager:


When I heard Beyonce’s latest single “Why Don’t You Love Me” a couple of months ago, I was glad to hear some new tunes from my girl. “Single Ladies” had been stuck in my head for far too long, and a good Beyonce jam always puts me in my happy place.

Then I saw the new music video. Totally retro – Rosie the Riveter kind of stuff – complete with … you guessed it … smoking.

This is not the first time Beyonce has used tobacco in a music video. Her lesser-known “Diva” features the pop star lighting up a cigar in the final scenes and tossing the lighter back to ignite a dramatic fire in which she walks away. She also has taken promotional photos for tours and previous engagements where she prominently displays a cigarette holder.

Beyonce sells a lot of music. But she also sells her sexy image, and the use of tobacco in combination with these videos and promotions is sending a negative message. Smoking is never sexy, no matter how good it seems to look in the video.

There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in “Why Don’t You Love Me.” I just wish there were more mirrors and less smoke.

Even more concerning about Beyonce’s latest mini-movie is that her character appears to be smoking as a result of the stress trigger. She’s visibly upset because nobody will love her, and mascara is running down her face – ever so perfectly, of course.

The Quit Coaches at Free & Clear understand the variety of triggers for tobacco, and stress certainly tops the list of reasons people give for wanting to light a cigarette. Beyonce making it look even more attractive on an international level is not helping the case that tobacco should be avoided as a stress relief mechanism.

Whether you believe it or not, tobacco use among celebrities has a strong influence. Studies have shown smoking in movies and on screen has a powerful influence on children and teenagers, accounting for 52% of adolescents who start using tobacco.

Not to come down hard on just Mrs. Jay Z - I am well aware many other musicians and celebrities are doing the same thing in their videos, promotions, and photo shoots. I am not giving a pass to those rappers, rockers, actors, and teen heartthrobs at all.

I am just saying it is time for this smoking trend to end. We are no longer living in the days of James Dean or Elvis Presley. Smoking is not sexy, no matter how short you wear your skirt.

From Hillbilly to Hip? Smokeless Tobacco is the Next Unhealthy Trend

April 12, 2010 2:03 PM by kenw

Ken Wassum, Senior Product Manager, Tobacco:


Smokeless tobacco products are taking on a new look. No longer is the mug of Tommy Lasorda, former manager of the Dodgers, with a hug “chaw” in the side of his mouth, the face of smokeless tobacco. If R.J. Reynolds gets the market response they are hoping for with their new smokeless products, use of smokeless tobacco will go from hillbilly to hip.

For the past year Reynolds has been test marketing a variety of oral tobacco products. These include Camel Snus, Camel Sticks, Camel Strips, and Camel Orbs. They are clearly hoping for two things. First, they are positioning these as products that can be used in smoke-free environments (“for when you can’t smoke”) since these restrictions are cutting into their bottom line. Second, they are trying to attract new users, as always. Hence the labeling of Orbs as “Mellow” and selling them in a plastic box that looks an awful lot like Tic Tacs. The tobacco industry has a long, long history of packaging and flavoring their products to be attractive to youth. But to listen to Susan Ivey, CEO of R.J. Reynolds, their objective is one of offering a “safe” alternative to cigarettes and offering an olive branch to those in public health who have been unwilling to compromise in the goal of reducing disease and death caused by smoked tobacco.

While these smokeless products are new, R.J. Reynold’s story is old. These new smokeless products do not require that the user spits. With the exception of Camel Snus, the Orbs, Strips, and Sticks are all designed to dissolve in the mouth. The snus product also does not require spitting as it is designed to go under the upper lip and has less salt in it, both of which cause less saliva being produced. And we have absolutely no idea of the health consequences of these products. They are too new and have not been tested for safety.

R.J. Reynolds has a long and disturbing history of releasing misinformation to the public and press. Whether it be the former CEO of R.J. Reynolds testifying that he did not believe nicotine was addictive (despite evidence from internal documents from the Board and R.J.’s research scientists which clearly state otherwise) and the release of Light and Ultra Light cigarettes designed to convince smokers in the 60’s and 70’s to not quit but instead use a “lighter” product. These are simply a couple of the countless other efforts to deceive the public and RJ Reynolds cannot be taken at their word.

R.J. Reynolds continues to aggressively make and market combustible tobacco, targeting specific markets with stylized branding. Examples include Camel No. 9 aimed at young women and American Spirits branded as “natural” and targeted towards youth. So while Ms. Ivey can talk all she wants about R.J.’s efforts to reduce disease and death associated with tobacco use, their actions prove otherwise. The simplest way they could achieve this goal is to stop the production and sale of smoked tobacco, but profits come before the health and welfare of Americans. And actions speak louder than words.

So while Camel Snus, Orbs, Sticks, and Strips may take smokeless tobacco from hillbilly to hip, R.J. Reynolds does not have the health of Americans in mind. It is just more smoke and mirrors.

Here’s the truth: quitting is hip. Switching to smokeless is just changing seats on the Titanic.

Kids Still a Target of Big Tobacco

October 15, 2009 2:02 PM by janicem
Janice Milliman, Quit Coach, Service Delivery:


What do cereal and tobacco manufacturers have in common?

Walking down the grocery store cereal aisle can be a challenge, especially with kids in tow. Brightly colored cereal boxes with toys and other freebies grab their attention. Cereal manufacturers developed creative and effective ways of marketing toward their most important audience: kids. Unfortunately, tobacco manufacturers are using some of the same tactics to lure kids into trying their products. The tobacco companies claim they are marketing only to adults, but I'm suspicious.

A February 2008 special report outlines how kids are influenced by free giveaways or candy-type flavoring and packaging. R.J. Reynolds' Camel No. 9 promotional giveaways include berry lip balm, cell phone jewelry, cute little purses and wristbands, all in hot pink (see a previous Free & Clear blog post about this topic here). My 9-year-old daughter loves those kinds of things, but I don't know any mature adult that would purchase the product just for the free lip balm.

"R.J." also has new "Orbs, Strips and Sticks," all nicotine laced tobacco products. Interestingly, one of their advertisements features young girl (she doesn't look 18 to me!) with the tobacco packages in the foreground.

Dreams, a line of cigarettes manufactured by Kretek International, Inc., come in candy flavors such as chocolate, strawberry and cherry.

As a Quit Coach with Free & Clear I've talked to many young teen tobacco users. Some try the new tobacco products on the market because of the special flavors or free items that come with the packaging.

As a parent, it's hard enough to prevent kids from being influenced by brightly colored cereal boxes and the free toy inside. It's no wonder why 90% of tobacco using adults started before the legal age.

These are just a few examples of the marketing strategies employed by "Big Tobacco." What's next, free jump ropes?

Big Tobacco Cries First Amendment Foul

September 18, 2009 12:48 PM by kenw
Ken Wassum, Senior Product Manager, Tobacco:


In a move that one cannot help but suspect is strategically calculated, Big Tobacco has filed suit against the FDA for restricting their First Amendment rights of free speech. The Congress passed legislation this last summer that gives the FDA the ability to regulate tobacco products, including how the industry advertises (Title II; Section 201; Sections a & b) their products. Given the track record of the tobacco industry of putting profits before ethics I fully suspect that this suit will be used to stall implementation of the entire Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, using the First Amendment issue as a red herring.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The [tobacco] companies object to such provisions as a requirement that cigarette makers expand the size of warning labels so that they cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs, and include graphic images such as diseased lungs. This change, they say, would leave manufacturers with only a small and often-obscured portion of a cigarette pack to print their own messages.”

The key part of this is the “…to print their own messages.” The tobacco industry has a long and storied history of misleading the public with their “messages.” A case in point is the marketing of light and ultra-light cigarettes a couple of decades ago. With this effort came nicotine and tar listings on the pack, which were completely inaccurate and gave smokers the idea that these products were less harmful than regular cigarettes. In truth the tobacco industry engineered the products so they passed faulty machine testing for nicotine and tar, but delivered the usual amount of nicotine and tar when smoked by people. Hundreds of thousands of American became sick and died as a result of ads that said things like, “Considering all I’d heard, I decided to either quit or smoke True. I smoke True.”

I am a former smoker. I smoked for almost 25 years before quitting at the age of 41. My father died of lung cancer and for the past 17 years I have worked to help smokers quit using clinically proven treatment approaches. Despite all this, I am not a fan of making cigarettes illegal. This didn’t work with the probation of alcohol in the 1920’s nor has it worked in the past 30 years with street drugs. It won’t work with cigarettes either.

Nevertheless, I am offended when the tobacco industry uses the First Amendment as their justification to continue their assault on the health and lives of the American public. The Courts have ruled that it is illegal to yell fire in a crowded theater because the risk to the public outweighs the right of free speech. Similarly the right of the Tobacco Industry to print their own misleading messages on a product that causes disease and death when used as directed by the manufacturer seems to fall into the same category.

The Tobacco Industry has a clear track record of misleading messages that are well documented. Case in point is their appearance before Congress in 1996 (it is important to remember that date) where they testified that they did not believe that nicotine was addictive. Guess what? Countless documents from their own internal meetings clearly show otherwise. Take the statement by W.L. Dunn, Jr in 1972, senior scientist at Philip Morris: “The majority of conferees would accept the proposition that nicotine is the active constituent of cigarette smoke…The cigarette should be conceived not as a product but as a package. The product is nicotine.”

Or, another statement by WL Dunn, again in 1972, intended for internal use only, “Think of the cigarette pack as a storage container for a day’s supply of nicotine…Think of the cigarette as a dispenser for a dose unit of nicotine…Think of a puff of smoke as the vehicle of nicotine…Smoke is beyond question the most optimized vehicle of nicotine and the cigarette the most optimized dispenser of smoke.”

Or, an internal memo from British American Tobacco as far back as 1964, “There seems no doubt that the ‘kick’ of a cigarette is due to the concentration of nicotine in the bloodstream…and this is a product of the quantity of nicotine in the smoke and the speed of transfer of that nicotine from the smoke to the bloodstream."

I could go on forever, but I think I made my point. Restricting tobacco package labels as the FDA has done is prudent and necessary. Let’s just hope the courts decide this way as well and let’s hope that the courts rule the FDA can proceed with other parts of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act while this issue is being sorted out.

Update from Mumbai: We Must Do Better

March 10, 2009 8:19 AM by kenw
Ken Wassum, Senior Product Manager:


Here in India at the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is center stage.  The WHO FCTC is a treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization. Since being adopted on February 27, 2005 it has since become one of the most widely embraced treaties in UN history and, as of today, has already 163 Parties.

While the US is a party to the treaty we are not bound by it.  Why?  Because the treaty has never been sent to Congress for ratification.  As a result of our lack of action we are in the company of such nations as Afghanistan, Cuba, Haiti, & Liberia.  As an American who has worked the past 16 years to help smokers quit their deadly addiction to cigarettes I am deeply embarrassed by our failure to ratify the treaty.

You might ask yourself why the US has never ratified the treaty.  You have only to look at the influence of Big Tobacco on the White House and Congress.  The previous administration was deep in the pockets of Big Tobacco.  The Tobacco Industry is a major contributor to the election campaigns of senators and congress person in tobacco growing states.  Over the past several years the White House could have sent the treaty to Congress for ratification at any point in time, but it did not.

The Tobacco Industry has worked tirelessly in the US and elsewhere in the world to dilute and delay any tobacco control legislation.  As always, they are subtle about how they go about doing this. They put on the face of caring about the little guy (the tobacco farmer) or preventing the erosion of personal rights (so-called Smokers’ Rights), but in the end is all about huge corporate profits at the expense of the health of US citizens and hundreds of millions of smokers worldwide.

Article 14 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) states, "Demand reduction measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation."  While the US has a National Tobacco Dependence Guideline that is a model for much of the world, what we lack is a real national strategy.  States are left to develop their own tobacco control policies with minimal funding from the Feds.  As a result we have a patchwork of substandard policies, legislation, and treatment services.

We have a long way to go in the United States if we really want to prevent nearly a half million smoking related deaths each year.  A first step would be to call your US Senators and Congress Persons and tell them you want the US to ratify the FCTC treaty.

To learn more about the treaty go to

Smoke-Free or Tobacco-Free?

January 27, 2009 3:18 PM by kenw
Ken Wassum, Senior Product Manager:


As a kid I used to sit on the floor beside my father’s easy chair when his best friend, Bill, visited from out of state.  Bill was a cigar smoker and I loved the smell of cigars. When stationed beside the chair I was in position to savor the aroma of these stogies.  The big surprise came the day when Bill leaned over the chair and let go a spit of tobacco juice into a coffee can narrowly missing my head….. I hadn’t been expecting that!

New smoke-free tobacco products are flooding the market.  This is not your “pass the spit can” chewing tobacco.  These are designed to be spit-free and some are even dissolvable.  They are intended to be “discrete, odor-free, and spit-free.”  In flavors like mint, wintergreen and even java, they are trying to capture a new segment of those who use tobacco.  Oh, and let’s not forget about those who don’t currently use tobacco – they’re on the radar screen too.

Marlboro Snus….Camel Snus…General Snus…Ariva…Stonewall…. These products are being aggressively promoted by the tobacco industry as a “safer alternative to smoking”.  They come in packaging that looks like chewing gum or Tic-Tacs.  With marketing claims that smack of wine and gourmet coffee they state, “…slightly peppery with hints of citrus zest and balanced tobacco notes……”

General Snus has been on the market in Sweden for many decades.  It has been the prototype for these new products in that it is not fermented like most US brands, such as Copenhagen, Skoal, and Kodiak.  Instead it has been pasteurized and this removes much of the primary carcinogen from the tobacco – nitrosamines.  The incidence of oral cancer in Sweden is very, very low.  The number of smokers has been steadily declining in Sweden in the last 20 years as more and more smokers go over to Swedish snus.  And that’s a good thing, since smoking is a leading cause of disease and death.

But the US public health community is polarized over whether smokers who are not ready to quit smoking should be encouraged to switch to smoke-free tobacco products.  Few dispute that smoke-free products are safer than cigarettes, but all recognize that these products are not “safe.” 

The issues and arguments are many and complex.  They include those who feel that those in public health should advocate for abstinence from all tobacco, not just smoked tobacco, as well as those who express valid caution over the long-term health consequences from use of these products.  Many feel the tobacco industry, which is notorious for disregarding the health of Americans for the almighty buck, are pulling an end-run around smoke-free laws and are not be trusted.

Reducing the number of Americans who use smoked tobacco is an essential part of improving health in this country.  Some feel these new smoke-free tobacco products move us towards that goal.  Others do not.

What do you think?

Eight Years Old and Ready to Quit

November 21, 2008 5:46 AM by sharenr
Sharen Ross, Vice President, Marketing:


A new anti-smoking website was launched earlier this week targeting girls between the ages of 8-11. It made me think about my experiences with smoking at that age and ponder how effective a website like this would have been for me.

When I was 8 years old cigarettes were still being advertised and shamelessly glamorized by celebrities. My favorite Uncle smoked about a pack a day and would routinely send me to the corner store with a note and a couple of bucks to get him a fresh pack. The store clerk never batted an eye. I would proudly carry the cigarettes home in full view, hoping people would think they were mine. But the desire to actually try smoking didn’t come until about the age of 13, and that was with a healthy dose of peer pressure. No amount of ingrained good sense or educational videos in the classroom could have stopped me from doing what was necessary to fit in with my friends - a much greater motivator at the time than vague warnings of a distant chance of lung cancer and premature death. I continued to smoke in fits and starts through high school, mostly just to be social, but the idea of quitting never entered my mind. Quit what? I never considered myself a real “smoker” like my Uncle, smoking was just something rebellious and cool to do temporarily. “Quitting” was for old people who had been smoking all their lives. 

So when I look today at this site and try to think back to my mindset at age 8-11, it strikes me that, while good intentioned, this website would not have stopped me from experimenting with smoking or continuing to smoke. In fact, some of the site would have been downright puzzling. Under the heading of "ask an expert" for example, I'm reminded that the money I am spending on cigarettes could be spent on the movies instead. Perhaps I'm wildly out of touch, but are 8-11 year old girls really strolling into corner stores today and buying up cigarettes with their pocket money? As a young closet smoker, I was lucky to sneak a cigarette from my Uncle when he wasn’t looking - and then it was a prized possession to be shared with friends. The "How to Quit" tips would have been equally as foreign. Pick a quit date? Get rid of your ashtrays and lighters? Talk with your doctor to get nicotine patches?!

Why, I'm just getting started, why stop now?

So what would have worked for me? Unfortunately the answer is not as simple as a new website. It would have required an absence of the external stimuli that normalized smoking to begin with. No peer pressure, no smoking Uncles, no cigarettes on TV, no candy "cigs" and definitely no Joe Camel. Replace all that with just the bad stuff - the black lungs, yellow teeth, bad breath and oral cancers. A complete social decoupling of the words "cool" and "smoking". Now, that would have done the trick. Unfortunately, that's a tall order. So I applaud the Dartmouth Children's Hospital and Dartmouth Medical School for making an effort. I just hope the effort pays off.

Super Slim Purse Packs: Pink Still Stinks

November 10, 2008 3:11 PM by erint
Erin Thompson, Marketing Manager:


As October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month came to a close, antismoking groups registered their protests at Philip Morris USA’s plan to launch the new pink “purse packs” of Virginia Slim “Super Slim” cigarettes. Part of the outrage, according to protestors, is the timing of Philip Morris's announcement. Pink abounds in October in support and memory of those who have battled breast cancer. 

It's insulting that anyone--even Big Tobacco--would think it appropriate to sell "cancer sticks" packaged in the same female-friendly color for such a contrary purpose.

Back in August we made note of the company’s use of feminine colors and sophisticated design to market Camel No. 9 cigarettes, which have received criticism for their female-targeted marketing and allusion to the name and sophistication of a fragrance by Chanel.

Now there is a “slimmer” product on the market that can be neatly tucked away in one’s purse. Convenient and petit, these cigarettes also claim to be "light," and target those women who'd like to think they represent a slimmer, health-conscious consumer.

Can't wait to see what they think up next. 


Eclipse Cigarettes - Safe? Or Not?

September 04, 2008 9:48 AM by kenw
Ken Wassum, Senior Product Manager:


In 1994 the tobacco industry stated, “…neither cigarette smoking nor the nicotine delivered in cigarettes is addictive.” In order to confuse the issue of the dangers to health from cigarette smoking, they planned to “..defend [itself] on three major fronts, litigation, politics, and public opinion…creating doubt about the health charge without actually denying it.” (F.Panzer to H. Kornegay [Trial Exhibit 20,987]). Of course, all along they knew nicotine was addictive, as evidenced by the Brown & Williamson communication from AJ Mellman to RA Blott in March 1983 stating, “Nicotine is the addicting agent in cigarettes.” (Trial Exhibit 13,334)

If that is not enough, you have repeated statements by the tobacco industry that they are not targeting youth. (Heavens no!) Yet Trial Exhibit 13,820 shows a RJR statement on February 21, 1973, “KOOL’s stake in the 16-25 year old population segment is such that the value of this audience should be accurately weighted and reflected in current media programs. As a result, all magazines will be reviewed to see how efficiently they reach this group and other groups as well.”

Or, notes from a RJR Marketing Department presentation to the Board of Directors on September 30, 1974, stating “First, let’s look at the growing importance of the young adult in the cigarette market. In 1960, this young adult market, the 14-24 age group, represented 21% of the population…They represent 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.” Or until they die….

Now RJR is saying their “reduced risk” Eclipse cigarette is safer than ultralight cigarettes, and that it “may produce less cancer.” And, they expect people to believe them. Now, they can confuse the issue, as they have for decades, by using multi-million dollar advertising campaigns. So it should not be a big surprise that when tested by an independent laboratory (LabStat International), the Massachusetts Department of Health concluded, “This research strongly suggests…..Eclipse may have much higher levels of known carcinogens than Now, a product already in the marketplace and being sold without explicit health claims.”

To make matters worse, one RJR campaign is clearly trying to undermine quit attempts by stating, “The best choice for smokers who worry about their health is to quit. Eclipse is the next best choice,”explicitly stating that Eclipse is safer than other cigarettes, despite the lack of credible scientific data to prove it. 

But then, the tobacco industry has always been upfront and transparent in their dealing, so why shouldn’t we believe them? Gee, maybe this is why --- take a look at this snippet from an internal Phillip Morris communication preceding the Minnesota Trial: “Ship all documents to Cologne [Germany]. We will monitor in person every 2-3 months. If important letters or documents have to be sent, please send to home - I will act on them and destroy.”

I think I will pass on Eclipse. Thanks anyway…..

Everybody Knows.

August 22, 2008 8:54 AM by sharenr
Sharen Ross, Vice President, Marketing:


Think back to a time when you made a major life-changing decision. Perhaps you decided to go back to school to finish a degree. Maybe you decided to lose weight, start jogging, become a vegetarian or quit drinking. Now think about what led you to that decision. Was it the result of an ad campaign? Probably not. Most likely it was a personal decision based on personal reasons.

Quitting smoking is no different. Despite a deluge of graphic public awareness campaigns over the past 20 years showing everything from rotting teeth to blackened lungs, 1 in 5 Americans continue to smoke - well aware of the dangers to their health and the health of those around them. In Europe, nearly 40% are smokers, however according to data collected by the European Opinion Research Group, more than 22% of European smokers say that, despite reading the warning labels on their cigarette packs, they are not deterred from smoking. Even more say they know the warnings are there but choose to ignore them. A recent Health Canada report confirmed the findings in Europe, showing that 57% of smokers find the graphic images on their cigarette packs to be ineffective, an increase of 5 points over the past five years.

In Australia, TV audiences will be confronted with a new graphic anti-tobacco ad campaign during the Olympics broadcast to drive home the message that "everybody knows" but some still ignore.

The Assistant Health Minister puts the issue in perspective when she states, "This campaign will ask smokers directly why they still smoke despite everybody knowing tobacco causes cancer, stroke, heart disease and emphysema."

Free & Clear is a company that knows smokers. It has been helping them for over 20 years with their struggles to quit this powerful addiction. Over 500,000 smokers have reached out to us for help just in the past 4 years. Yet, how often do we hear a smoker say "I called today because I saw a picture of cancerous lung on TV", or "I read a warning label on my cigarette pack and decided to quit on the spot". Those campaigns certainly play an important role - you might say they have achieved exactly what they set out to do - raise public awareness about the dangers of smoking. No one can claim ignorance any more.

But what really drives a smoker to make the life-changing decision to quit? The reasons are always different and they’re always deeply personal. Here's a sampling of things we hear every day:

"What made me open my eyes and want to stop smoking was my health. I woke up one morning and could barely breathe."

"I grabbed a smoke, looked at my wife and saw her sadness at what I was doing. She's the reason I quit."

"When you actually see someone that you love get to the point where they are almost dead, you think to yourself and wonder whether it is worth it."

"What really changed my mind and made me see the reality of what I was doing was when my 4-year-old daughter looked up at me and said "Mommy, I don't want you to die. Please don't breathe more smoke."

"When my Doctor requested I quit smoking NOW or I'm going to end up on oxygen."

"My first grandchild was on the way and my son told me that I would not be able to hold the baby, drive in my car with the baby, or have the baby in my house if anything smelled of smoke."

What many non-smokers don't realize is how hard it is to quit smoking. 70% of smokers "want to quit" and most who reach out to us for help have already made several attempts in the past only to return to smoking again shortly thereafter. Not because they forgot why they needed to quit, they certainly don't need to be reminded with more graphic images and warning labels, but because overcoming an addiction that is both physical and psychological is incredibly hard.

Smokers know why they need to quit. They don't need more reminders. What they do need more of is help; close at hand and ready for them when they are finally ready to quit for themselves.

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