Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's Obama Have In Common With Joe Camel?

It's been almost 12 years since Joe Camel retired. A legal settlement in 1998 prohibited the cool iconic cartoon character from being used in packaging and advertising. It turns out that Joe Camel was becoming as recognizable to kids as Mickey Mouse. On Monday, President Obama signed into law sweeping legislation that puts the FDA in charge of the marketing and sale of tobacco products. The new law also gives the FDA the power to regulate what's put in those products, including not only nicotine, but also candy and fruit flavorings marketed toward young people. In 2006, R.J. Reynolds, the makers of Camel, agreed to stop selling flavored cigarettes with names like "Twista Lime" and "Mocha Taboo." Now, all tobacco companies will have to put an end to the subtle practice of luring new, mostly young smokers, with flavorings and fancy packaging. Keeping tobacco out of the hands of young people is the most important part of the new bill. On Monday, when Obama signed the bill, he said: "The decades-long effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of smoking has emerged victorious." The most important issue in the the new legislation, he said, is to reduce the number of new smokers in the future. On Tuesday, however, in a White House press conference, Obama admitted that he was struggling with kicking the habit himself, saying "I'm 95% cured." He was responding to a reporter's question on the subject. The reporter, Margaret Talev of McClatchy Newspapers, framed her question like this: "As a former smoker, I understand the frustration and the fear that comes with quitting. But with the new law that you signed...regulating the tobacco industry, I'd like to ask you a few questions...How many cigarettes a day do you smoke? Do you smoke alone or in the presence of other people?" She then went on to ask Obama if the new law that he signed on Monday "should help you quit. If so, why?" Obama's response: "The new law that was put in place is not about me. It's about the next generation of kid's coming up." The new law that gives the FDA the authority to ban all cigarettes from having candy and fruit flavors takes effect this October. The law will also put an end to marketing practices by tobacco companies such as sponsoring sporting and entertainment events using tobacco logos or brand names, or giving away clothing or promotional items bearing the logo or brand name of a tobacco company. Years ago, Camel had a T-shirt promotion. I still have the shirt with a giant picture of Joe Camel on the front. It was pretty cool at the time. President Obama, like Joe Camel, is a cool and iconic character. We don't need images of him smoking. He's a role model to kids, and it's counterproductive. And yet, after yesterday's news conference, in between talking about the economy, health care, nuclear proliferation and global warming, Obama was talking about his own nicotine habit. He admitted that although he has backtracked on the smoking issue, he does so in private. So why bring it up in the first place? Most news sources, however, ran with the story. That seems fair. After all, once it was brought up, it was a legitimate news story. However, some web sites ran photos of Obama smoking. There's the famous one from the Time magazine college photos of a young Obama looking cool with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Then there's the undated one that ran as part of a story at Examiner.com, with the caption, "Obama takes a Presidential smoke break." Other photos have surfaced from the past, and although some are obviously photo-shopped, some are real. The one that popped up yesterday in the Examiner looks real, and it looks recent. Is there really a good reason to run it? Images of the President smoking should not be made public. Barack Obama is bigger than Joe Camel ever was. Maybe even bigger than Mickey Mouse.

22 comments:

  1. If cigarettes are so terrible, ban their sale and possession. After all, "it's for the children". Then of course the government wouldn't get the tax revenue from cigarette sales. Funny how the President and some congressmen demonize the tobacco companies for "making money from selling death" but ignore the fact that the government is making money from the same thing.

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  2. Joe Camel represents a private business, Joe Camel was born in the USA, Joe Camel isn't out to destroy peo..Oh wait that's it, they both want to end your life as you know it....I'll compromise: get rid one and let smoker's have their own space.

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  3. I would just put on a pack of ciggies my own story"You will be addicted to these cigarettes and will go through Hell and meet the Devil when you withdraw". Took me 5 years on and off to finally get off them for good ,11 years ago. I went cold turkey and I do feel sorry for those that still smoke as i feel sorry with folks with a major disease.

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  4. Since smoking has been banned from all federal buildings, where does Obama go to sneak a smoke? The Rose Garden? Air Force 1?

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  5. I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of the government regulating anything. Granted, I’m not a smoker but I don’t like the idea of the government telling any business what they can and cannot do with their products or how they do business.

    Because while everyone can rally behind this “good cause,” what happens if it’s something else next time? Let’s say that the government wants to regulate restaurants and mandate that they are not allowed to serve raw meat anymore because it’s not good for the public?

    Does it sound silly? Sure it does, but then again, five years ago people thought it would be silly for the government to regulate the tobacco companies.

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  6. Hmm, let me get this straight... you advocate the government butting out of regulating business, even in the case of a product that, if used according to the manufacturer's instructions, KILLS a significant percentage of its customers!

    Oh, boy, you sure qualify as a die hard Republican!

    By the way, most jurisdictions DO forbid the serving of raw meat, especially hamburger, because it's not good for the public!

    Look, the government has, as part of its job, the responsibility of protecting the public. That includes the public health. There are very few intelligent people that do not recognize that this means that the government CAN tell people how to run their businesses! Or do you want to go back to the days when seat belts were optional and cost extra? Or even not an option at all?

    Should we just scrap the FDA altogether and go back to the crap an ancestor of mine sold - "McEwen's Eagle Cough Cure"? Guaranteed to cure the common cold, whooping cough, cancer, upset stomach, dry cough and many many more ailments. Probably contained such things as wood alcohol, tar, human urine, or cocaine. All in amounts and strengths that were completely unregulated, and also most likely varied in strength from bottle to bottle. Also stuff that did NOTHING to fulfill its promises!

    THAT'S what happens when the government takes its hands off private business' business practices.

    I work for the FDA, and have for over thirty years. I am an acting low level manager in the IT office. I work with many different FDA employees from all over the US, as the facility where I work trains them. They are all, virtually without exception, dedicated to the health and safety of the citizens of this country. It is what caused most of them to go to work for the government in the first place. Many of them have worked for the FDA for their entire careers, some for decades.

    I can tell you, without reservation, that they do everything in their power to keep you and your family safe in all of the products that we regulate. I have worked with people that I can only describe as the finest examples of selfless dedication I have ever seen.

    Yet, we work in a bureaucracy, and we can, in that context, make mistakes. Our effectiveness depends upon how much money Congress gives us, and the resources that money provides us with. The rules we work under as a Federal Agency also affect how well we can do our jobs.

    Yet we go on, day by day, doing the best we can, and we will continue to do so, and have already begun the task of organizing the new Center to protect Americans from a horrifically dangerous product.

    In spite of the difficulties, we WILL succeed!!

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  7. Actually Rwahrens, I'm a die hard Independent. But it’s funny, because I’m usually accused of either being a Republican or Democrat depending on the topic.

    Anyway, medicine is one thing. But the people should be the ones voicing their opinion if they want change.

    You mention that some jurisdictions do forbid places serving red meat. Fine. I’m not happy with that, because eating red meat isn’t nearly as bad or as deadly as McEwen’s Eagle Cough Cure. But if the people of the jurisdictions voted for places to stop serving red meat, then that’s great. Because it’s the will of the people and that is something that I can respect.

    I’m from the school of thought that people should be responsible for themselves. I don’t smoke because I choose to. I don’t eat meat if it’s too bloody that if you put a knife in it, it will moo.
    I just think that people need to exercise a lot more common sense in their lives so the government doesn’t have to do it for them.

    Now, I’m glad the FDA is doing a great job. I have a lot of faith in them and I never said that I didn’t. I just think that when big government starts to regulate tobacco, it could lead to a very slippery slope and a watchful eye is needed.

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  8. I think that this is crazy. The president created a law just for himself? No way. I dont believe it. I do think that he is a HUGE icon I definitly don't think they should run the pics of him smoking, if he is as big of an influence as we think he is. I know people would love to make that big buck but I think they should be a bit patriotic and just not take that photo.

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  9. Obama's much cooler than Joe Camel. And by explaining his struggles kicking the habit, he's able to put a face to the problem of addiction. Joe Camel couldn't comment. Obama can explain his transgressions. He's human after all. Kids relate to honesty, and when Obama says that cigarette smoking is not cool, let's hope they're listening. The pictures of Obama smoking hopefully won't have an adverse effect. In any case, he's counteracting these images by the very fact that he's a role model. Don't do as I do, do as I say, is not always the best way to get the message across, but Obama is an expert at communicating. He just needs to keep communicating to kids that what he did was not good, and that nicotine is a powerful and addictive drug. He's showing how hard it is to quit, and maybe this will make young people less likely to start up in the first place. Those pictures of Obama as a cool dude smoking a cigarette will hopefully not overshadow the good work he is doing. He's a good role model, and even good role models have failings.

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  10. Obviously Joe Camel wasn't cool. Obama is, and he's able to articulate his feelings, and let it be known that smoking is bad. As far as being a role model to kids, not only is he telling them about the dangers of smoking, but, as you say, his legislation goes farther than anything in history in protecting kids from being targeted with cigarette advertising. The fact that Joe Camel lasted until 1998 is in itself a sign that the government has been slow in regulating the marketing of cigarettes to minors.

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  11. "I saw a set of headphones on a Camel cigarette. The magic mushroom laid an egg in my television set." -- Jet-Age Time Lag

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  12. If Barack Obama is like Joe Camel, George Bush is like Mickey Mouse.

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  13. It's about time we had tough legislation aimed at advertising to kids. President Obama should be applauded for his good work getting this thing passed. Instead, everyone's talking about Obama's smoking, and pictures are surfacing. How many of these pictures are done in photo-shop. You could have the Pope smoking if you wanted to. Obama should have just said he doesn't smoke anymore. Who could have proven him wrong. He's just too honest. Bill Clinton smoked cigars. Now there's a character for you. If Obama is Joe Camel, and George Bush is Mickey Mouse, then Bill Clinton is Wiley Cayote.

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  14. Obama's a role model. He's made it clear to kids the dangers of smoking, and in passing this legislation, he's made a big statement. Kids will listen to his struggles and decide for themselves that smoking is not cool, just because Obama is. If Obama is so cool, they'll take his advice and not get hooked.

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  15. Great point. I do not know how his smoking photo will play out but I can that young people, who are already in hero worship, will be motivated in the wrong direction

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  16. I think the media is obsessed with Obama the smoker. It's like they finally found a vice in a man that looked bulletproof to them. But it's being taken to a hysterical level, so much so that his habits are being broadcast to the world instead of his policies, his errors, his goals, etc. Not sure how much longer the media will harp on his smoking, but I hope they turn to more important matters affecting American people.

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  17. i feel that any twist to make this about obama is silly. the bolus of the population has their battle...he is working to prevent people from ever starting in the first place. a future pound of cure!

    at least he admits and knows he has a battle to quit. mmmmm, someone drinking who is an aa guy is somehow more heroic? even when he goes to hosp for busting his noggin?

    great piece! i cannot wait to see this legislation pave the way in preventing our youth from ever taking a puff of the cool flavors!

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  18. In this day of photo-shop, who can you believe? I've seen some of the pictures on the Internet, and most look questionable to me. Now some web sites are showing the original pictures pre-cigarrette. So which one was photo-shopped, the one with the cigarette or the one without?

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  19. There are very few things I can say I support Obama on but this is one, and I am a smoker. The only thing I question is why he didn't tackle the alcohol industry the same way for the same reasons and method of advertising such as the cool captain Morgan or any number of advertisements that always show sexy women making some connection that if you drink it you will be in with the cool crowd or get the notice of sexy women or men? and producing their beverages to be sweet and packaged like a fruit drink such as the strawberry and other fruit flavored wine coolers or the Pirate bay mojitos and other lively labeled and flavored malt beverages that you can usually find right next to the rest of the soft drinks in the coolers in almost any convenience store?

    Although smoking is obviously bad for your health it is very unlikely you will instantly or in long term kill anyone else around you with your second hand smoke for the vast majority. But you can and do have people of all ages being killed daily as a direct result of alcohol whether they consumed it or was simply injured or killed by someone else who has drank too much. Not to mention only the physical effects alcohol has on nearly all organs of your body it also causes some to fight, domestic violence, loss of jobs, lose self control hurting themselves and or others, etc, etc, and unlike cigarettes it only takes one or a few drinks to achieve a deadly or bad situation instead of years of smoking that usually only affects the one individual physically.

    Just curious why it never gets the same attention and regulation as tobacco.

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  20. There's no doubt that people abuse alcohol, and now with the Michael Jackson news about prescription drugs we have another problem being discussed. But out of all the bad things out there, cigarettes have a history of advertising to kids. That's the issue. If kids think smoking is cool, that's not good. I'm glad Joe Camel is no longer used to advertise cigarettes, and the fact that this cartoon character was allowed to until the 1990s is unbelievable. The pictures of Obama smoking cigarettes don't help the matter, but he has always maintained that smoking is not cool.

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  21. Elliot FirestoneJuly 17, 2009 at 1:24 PM

    You don't know what to believe anymore. Now we find out that NASA erased the original moon landing tapes, so a Hollywood production company is helping to restore footage from other sources. Conspiracy theory, anyone?

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