Pink Dreams Turn to Ashes: Tobacco Goes for the Girls

pinkdreams.jpgPink Dreams. The name alone has head-spinning implications. Thoughts whiplash from bubblegum-n-Barbie to provocative porn, depending on your age, gender, and mindset.

When I saw the ad, “Pink Dreams Sold Here” it stopped me cold.

The white-thigh high knee-sock-pony-tail-platform-shoe wearing blonde was posed in a bare-bellied pink plaid school girl-stance, holding a pink cigarette like a pencil.

In light of the brand new Harvard School of Public Health study purporting increases in machine-measured levels of the addictive agent nicotine, I can’t freakin’ believe these guys are doing a ‘Victoria’s Secret think pink’ number on the youth market. (See Packaging Girlhood’s excerpts from their thorough book on protecting girls from marketing like this, in “The Selling of Pink” smack dab in chapter one!)

It’s bad enough we’ve got stuffed pink doggies in the window teasing tweens into thong-wearing Lolita-ville, now we’re aggressively cultivating young women as replacement smokers for kids that got “The Truth?”

Sadly, after a decade of improvement, the decline in daily smoking by teens has leveled off. Specialty tobacco importer Kretek should be rebranded “Cretin” for this opportunistic targeting of girls as a marketing ploy. Pink cigarettes bring a whole new meaning to ‘femme fatale.’

Studies show girls may develop signs of nicotine addiction faster than boys and are already vulnerable to cigarettes as a ‘weight loss vehicle,’ do we really need to throw $41 million per person, per day toward fouling up kids’ health further?

As a nonpartisan org, I won’t even bother pinging on the journalistic ‘biases’ of both sides of the reporting debate, (this article from Slate brilliantly skewers the reporting and this pithy one from Newsbusters makes me want to stay out of the tussle) so I’ll unapologetically launch right into the ethical angle…

This is not a ‘red or blue’ issue, but a ‘pink’ one. Mining these girls to hook ‘em on the habit early is all about the green!

Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s ‘free enterprise,’ right? And green is good for capitalistic business senses.

Sorry, folks, not buying the currency this round.

Pundits professing free choice issues and nanny nations can save their breath here, as this is NO different than marketing Joe Camel with eyelashes and pantyhose.

The CDC cites EVERY single day in the U.S. about 4,000 kids between 12-17 give smoking a go, and over 1100 of them stick with it daily.

That’s lookin’ pretty sweet to the ‘coffin nail’ peddlers, who blitz rock concerts, sporting events, movie trailers, Hollywood films to youth every chance they get…

Unless of course you buy into that “corporate citizen plea” from Philip Morris asking their brands “not be filmed.” (Stifled guffaw notwithstanding…)

KSG network producer forum claims that TV viewers CAN and DO make a difference on screen issues though. (But the one line zinger at the end says it all)

To find out more about who’s putting up smoke screens and which films and companies are serious about change, check out UCSF’s Smoke Free Movies site.

It’s a great resource with links, articles and action updates, along with a list of ‘now showing’ picks and pans from a screen media smoke circuit point of view.

One article on the site, “Movies That Blow Smoke,” listed some recent films that the AMA Alliance considered as having an ‘excessive amount of smoking.’

My biggest surprise was NOT that tobacco advertising and promotion has more than tripled since 1997, nor that 460 G, PG and PG-13 movies featured smoking. (compared with only 440 R-rated movies!) —It was the simple fact that Time Warner actually published the list with their own films on it: Ant Bully and Superman Returns!

Am I sounding cynical?

Sorry, many of my “big league” industry colleagues feed me morsels like “Deep Throat” informants to keep their keisters off the radar and their 6-figure salaries in the clear…so I’m readily astonished when transparency and uncensored truth comes into play.

Speaking of candor, if you dare voice media accountability within earshot of bigwigs, epithets start flying, and you’re likely branded an “anti-smoking Nazi”


Doesn’t matter if you cite Dartmouth Medical School’s study about movies influencing teens…

Or the American Medical Association Alliance President saying “On screen smoking has been implicated as the cause of 390,000 new teen smokers every year, and 120,000 of this group of new teen smokers will eventually die from tobacco use”…you’re still just muckraking and interfering with “business.”

Ashes to ashes, I’m glad I’m self-employed and speak freely.

My favorite routine is when pundits haul out the bit about teen smoking putting a crimp on the “artistic agenda” of filmmakers.

Um. Wait a sec. I AM a filmmaker. As a Creative Director and Writer/Producer that means I’m trying to shackle my own vision. Is that like a blonde telling a blonde joke? Oh wait, that applies to me too.

My org may be centrist, but I confess with full disclosure I’m a smoke-free zealot, highly allergic to the body pollution concept and the product itself.

There. Happy?

Doesn’t mean I can’t sort out the difference between gratuitous product placement, psycho-emotional teen triggers (risk-taking, independence, and edgy defiance) marketing ever-cool, and realistic character development.

NO ONE is trying to say James Dean should’ve toted a lollipop. Nor do I think that films deserve an ‘R’ rating for cigs, or that health advocacy should govern media and the arts, BUT:

We’ve reached moral bankruptcy and full unconciousness when we’re mining children’s bodies for a “think pink marketing payoff” using girlie-girl fashionista tactics.

As a writer, when I read copy blurbs like, “Pink Dreams is a super-premium cigarette aimed at the female smoker…A smooth blend accented with a silky pink wrapper tipped in gold; these fashionable cigarettes are presented in foil-embossed European shoulder-style packaging,” it makes ME turn “pink” with exasperation.

For marketers that view children as expendable bodies with dollar signs on them, can they not see that those same dollars will BURY our broken system with long term health care costs from various diseases, if kids make it to adulthood without a toe tag?

Where’s the foresight? On ANY of the products jeopardizing kids’ health and well-being?

Name your poison and it’ll be SuperSized and served up as part of the free enterprise system.

Marketing directly to kids like this hits way below the belt. Tobacco’s the most blatant, but peek into the others hammering children in attempts to set brand loyalty through habitual use.

From high dose jolts of caffeine flooding prepubescent bodies, (pediatricians are sorting through causal links to everything from peptic ulcers to gastroesophageal reflux) to the buzz of mini-keggers, beer blitzes, and ‘alcopops’ for underage ‘X-tremes’, surge in Type 2 diabetes and obesity tied to junk food marketing, the kids fragile enough to buy into these messages may pay the cost with their quality of lives.

As a die-hard existentialist, I’m firmly in the camp of personal responsibility…but this goes way beyond parental accountability or kids own self-rein…and even losing ONE child to this predatory practice is vile.

Mind you, I’m not underestimating youth media savvy and spin-spotters!

When smart kids foil the ‘big M’ and pull the pants down on some corporate media hack that tries to plant a product in a blog item, social network, or youth forum, it brings me great joy and immense pleasure.

This one was my favorite from a youth on yahoo questions, citing the Pink Dreams brand:

(Terri O) “What is a California Dreams pink cigarette? Is it an illegal drug? Is a pink dream-something you smoke– a natural herb or an illegal drug? Heard my kid talking about it-gotta know!”

(Graham Cracker Head) “Seems like to me that you are just trying to advertise your product cuz if you google this it brings it right up….duh, how hard was that shame on you.”

The fact that there was no further forum discussion makes me inclined to believe that despite the grammar grappling, ‘Graham Cracker Head’ is one smart cookie.

Stay tuned for two-more parts to this ‘think pink’ marketing series, including ‘pinkwashing’ of brands with our Packaging Girlhood advisory board team.

Resource Round-Up On Teen Smoking and Tobacco Issues:

American Cancer Society: Child & Teen Tobacco Use

American Lung Association: Smoking & Teens Fact Sheet

CDC: Celebrities Against Smoking Media Campaign

CDC: Tobacco Industry Marketing Fact Sheet, Dec. 2006

CDC: Youth & Tobacco Use Fact Sheet Dec. 2006

Coalition Pathways: Reducing Teen Tobacco Use

See Through the Smoke: Youth advocacy, shout outs to the movies

Surgeon General’s Report: 2006

TIPS4Youth:(CDC sponsored site with youth links to video, quizzes, interviews) Tobacco industry’s newsy links & updated feeds of all things tobacco, even has a teen smoking/youth category to track articles pertaining to kids

Truth Campaign (Successful youth anti-smoking coalition)



  1. Holy cow.

    I don’t know how on Earth those things are legal.

  2. Well…legally, they’re not SUPPOSED to be targeting teens. (But when it’s on a poster next to an ice cream shop and a smoothie store, well…um, yeah)

    Check out Packaging Girlhood’s blog blurb on this too, titled: “What’s Wrong With Pink?”

    Re: Age/legality: The U.K. is changing their tobacco age to 18 beginning Oct. ’07, story here: but I’m not sure that makes much difference since Japan is one of the highest tobacco consuming nations, and their legal age is 20!! Sigh…

    Half the time making things ‘contraband’ adds to a teen risk/danger appeal, & the dang marketers know this! I’m hoping kids will SEE the whole smoke screen of how marketers are mining their pink lungs for green.

    Then maybe teens will “boycott their butts.” ahem. 😉

  3. I checked out Packaging Girlhood’s blog. There’s some interesting stuff going on. I will trackback in a couple of days. Will post the link.

  4. bifemmefatale says

    Do you have a pic of that schoolgirl ad for the cigarettes? I can’t find one online anywhere.

  5. Unfortunately, I don’t. I looked for it too. They’re quite cagey & stealth in their ability to stay off the feds radar in terms of overt promotion. I think I may see if I can snap a digital of the poster & upload it myself. (it’s a bit sun-faded, but…)

    I also may ask the store owner to see how to get a copy from their distributor, but that would take some undercover stuff as I’m sure they’d want all the ‘whys’…

  6. The only place that I’ve seen these available were at a gas station, in a sealed plastic case alongside various small cigars and cigarettes. It didn’t seem marketed towards teens at first, but the college girls behind me were buzzing about how irresistible the packaging was. I was under the impression that these were hard to find, I haven’t seen them anywhere but this one gas station.

  7. Unfortunately, not so. They’re popping up everywhere, and “Camel has grown another hump” too, as you can see by this blog…R.J.Reynolds is doing the same thing, coming out with a ‘tiny hot pink camel’ in a sleek black box, “menthe No. 9” targeting girls in ‘shades of Chanel No.9…

    I think I may even have to post an update on NEW pink cigs targeting girls, sadly. Why can’t they just keep kids off the coffin nail/cancer stick radar & leave ’em alone? argh.

  8. FDA Regulatory Update with links to legislation: 2/28 here:

  9. BarrotsMom says

    I am a former smoker and smoked these “terrible Pink Monsters”. There are women who like pink just as much as a little girl. But frankly, they’re not advertised unless you are outside of a smoke shop and if your children are hanging out in such a place….well that sounds like the real problem.

  10. Sadly, untrue. I found this one on a poster outside a standard strip mall convenience store/mag/liquor stop shop next to an ice cream parlor, a Jamba Juice, a pet supply store, bagel shop, and grocer.

    You’re absolutely right though, they ARE targeting WOMEN/GIRLS/TEENS and let’s just say FEMALES in general. (Camel’s black/hot pink No.9s are doing the same) Pink think.

    It sells.

  11. Its a cigarette, the name of the brand has nothing to do with whether or not someone wants to buy them…People dont smoke because its ‘cool’ they smoke for other reasons, each their own. Bashing a brand because of their marketing strategy is just immature! Get a life people, and let people smoke, what they want to, its not you smoking, so dont try to stop others.

  12. Hacksbadt says

    Um, Hunter, unfortunately a lot of people do start smoking because of perceived coolness, which is extremely closely tied in with peer pressure.

    And why do you take offense so much at the fact that the company is being criticized, or “bashed” as you like to say? Are you being bankrolled by Kretek Inc.?


  14. Hello Everyone,
    My wife was finally able to kick the habit before she got pregnant with our now first born beautiful baby gilr, so I tought I’ll share the resource that she has used to help her quit the smoking habit with as many people as I can.
    She was a heavy smoker for about ten years and just a couple of weeks after finding out about the program that I have researched online, she was able to quit smoking permanently and now can’t stop telling people about how she had kicked the habit for good.
    Anyway if you want to check it out, here is the site that my wife has used to help her quit smoking;

  15. It’s a given that tobacco enthusiasts will take any target marketing of the youth demographic as ‘brand bashing’ but the sad truth is, they’re targeting these kids specifically to hook ’em while they’re young. It’s dollars and “sense” addiction people…Much like the alcopops and the beverage industry is targeting teens with ‘hard lemonade’ and such.

    Want more evidence of peer correlation/brand coolness cache? Just look at smoking in films and the teen media market glorification. All kinds of correlation evidence there.

    Here’s just a dab for ya,,8599,1566401,00.html

    “Although the U.S. domestic tobacco industry has agreed to stop paid cigarette brand placements, activists want Hollywood to incorporate smoking as a part of its voluntary ratings system, which now judges movies according to sex, violence and foul language. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking among teenagers is no longer dropping as it did during the late 1990s, and smoking in films is partly responsible. “Movies deliver billions of glamorized pro-smoking messages to adolescents in this country,” says James Sargent, M.D., a Dartmouth Medical School professor who researches the impact on children of movies with smoking scenes.

    Over the past seven years, Hollywood’s youth-rated movies have been more likely to feature tobacco than R-rated films: there have been at least 460 G, PG and PG-13 movies with smoking, compared with only 440 R-rated movies, according to the Alliance. At the same time, tobacco advertising and promotion in the United States has more than tripled since 1997.

    “On-screen smoking has been implicated as the cause of 390,000 new teen smokers every year,” says Nita Maddox, AMA Alliance president. “It is estimated that 120,000 of this group of new teen smokers will eventually die from tobacco use.” The Alliance is launching a parent-to-parent grassroots campaign to make future movies rated G, PG and PG-13 smoke-free – an effort that could reverberate in other foreign countries where U.S films dominate and where, Maddox says, “the tobacco industry is hunting its next generation.”

    And…here’s an entire site called “smoke free movies” from UCSF to give you a full blown snapshot and updated list:

    To my #13 & #15 readers commenting above, with all due respect, it’s indeed your right to kill yourself, but please keep your target marketing off our kids.

    That’s spoken both as a mom, a youth advocate, and a ‘no censorship’ ad maven as well.

    It’s not your “right” to hijack children’s health and well-being.

    This is not a “nanny state” issue, but rather a solid case of subversive brand marketing, economic profiteering, and leveraging ‘coolness cache’ to resonate with a demographic of young women buying the bit that it’s sleek and fun.

    You say “get a life and let people smoke” —Well, I’ll leave you with the irony in that statement… 😉

  16. Hello All,

    I was reading around some of the posts here and I found interesting things that you guys talk about, I just made a blog about quitting smoking resources and ideas that you might want to check out.
    If someone is interested in this topic just go to; and let me know what you think.
    Thanks in advance.

  17. Well, there are PLENTY of reasons to quit smoking, and here’s a GREAT list of resources from Family Education’s latest roundup of journal articles for getting TEENS to quit (or not start!) From price to effects, addiction, health, they deconstruct how parents can handle/deal with this touchy issue, and not make it ‘forbidden fruit’ so they WANT to smoke to be edgy…,email-h

  18. you are totally blowing this out of proportion, grow up! get off your computer and raise your kids if you have them. people choose to smoke and if women are going to smoke then they might prefer something that tastes sweet or “lady-like” so grow up and go do something productive instead of wasting your time bashing products.

  19. I love them.

  20. To Bryan & Kara: I’d like ALL of us to ‘grow up’…healthy, preferably.

    Which is why I prefer kids not be mined to get hooked on this crud. You’re absolutely right that we all have choices…my choice is to keep the tobacco companies from mining kids earlier and earlier…If you want to trash your bod when you’re an adult…hey, your choice.

  21. wow! i feel incredibly sorry for your children having such an insane mother! talk about over analyzing shit and blowing it waaaay out of proportion. seriously, im so sick of people saying that ‘Dreams’ are geared towards children. tell me this much, since when is UNadult like to enjoy the color pink or the flavors chocolate, cherry or vanilla. and as for the dogs in victoria’s secret, i guess only children are allowed to like dogs? to me, people like you are just looking for something to blame bad parenting on. maybe you should just raise your children to know the difference between right and wrong. and instead of attacking Kretek, why dont you attack the stores selling them to underagers or the people purchasing it for them.

    ps-im not even a smoker but i find this so ridiculously out of hand, just wanted to share my opinion.

  22. Thanks for ‘sharing,’ Melissa…and if you’ve checked the blog, we DO hold stores accountable for selling them to underagers. No one is saying you can’t trash your bod…but my marketing colleagues are targeting teens on multiple levels of toxic crud, and if you don’t ‘believe that it’s being geared towards kids’ then perhaps you are the one who is ‘insane’…

  23. Its Okay folks, you don’t have to worry about girls wanting to smoke these Pink cigarettes. I found myself with a box of them and I have to tell you they are terrible. In fact maybe you should let your little girls try them, they are so awful they will never want to smoke again.

  24. Well, that’s positive. 😉

    Seriously, it’s the same way I feel about some of the energy drinks (carbonated cough syrup) in jolt-n-crash mode that they’re marketing to kids as ‘Blow’ cocaine sims w/mirror and credit card in powdered form…word has it on the street that ‘it sucks’ as one teen said…which makes me smile. 😉

    So, thanks, Laura…you made my day.

  25. I think they are great. I am already a smoker, so having a more feminine cigarette out there suits me perfect. Besides, they look great with my New Years dress.

    If you’re so upset just about these cigarettes, why don’t you look into all the Camel Signature blends. They’re fruity and the packs are artsy.


  26. Dear Lizzie, if you’d have read the whole article in full, you’d see this was about the overall trend in targeting feminine smokers, and yes, I’ve already covered the Camel Signature blends many times over…

    Here’s the link…to debrief:

    And since you’re already a smoker,you’re not our ‘target market’ for the healthy lifestyle message, so you know that, right? I suppose I AM ‘upset’ by the blatant targeting of teen girls thinking this goes “pretty with prom” so to speak…

    So DO enjoy your coffin nails…and your fruity, artsy packs designed to match your New Years dress. It’s your right, by gawd!

    Just as it’s MY right to tell teen girls ‘the truth’ about the inner workings of the campaign to ‘hook ’em while they’re young’…You’re in the manufacturer’s crosshairs, targeted as ‘most apt to be vulnerable’ by this fashionista think pink message; sadly, it sure looks like it’s workin’…teen smoking stats are on the rise for the first time in over a decade. Girls are in the lead. The race to the graveyard. Woohoo!

  27. I just left a bit of a rant on this article re: more crossover/gateway drugs targeting youth et al early on…
    .-= Amy Jussel´s last blog ..Flash Animation & Viral KidVid? Give Pause =-.

  28. Becky Scharp says

    I am a huge proponent for smokeless cigarettes : personally they were the reason for myself managing to stop cigarette smoking within a matter of weeks, and that has been well at least a year and a half ago! challenge there seems to be a lot of junky units out there, or there initially were back then. However I recognised the potential with the technologies and finally it was only when happened upon the super cigarette when I managed stop smoking normal cigarettes fully. Indeed is a really suspect subject yet I personally think people should really genuinely investigate the situation for themselves and do sensible basic since right now there is a lot of information in existence. This is that individuals can really really benefit significant innovative technology, it again undoubtedly did for me personally.

  29. Today’s world is full of nicotine i think. we have to reduce it. and try to avoid smoking.we to aware of our children, about their friends also. i think firstly the circle is responsible for this habit.

  30. Dear Becky and Mike, (above comments) agree that nicotine is a massive problem, and understand those arguing cessation and risk management of tobacco via e-cigs is the ‘talking point’ du jour…but the truth is, Juul and the rest of the e-cig manufacturers have target marketed teens and vulnerable populations NOT for cessation but for opening new markets.

    It is a heinous health problem perpetuated by monetization of corporate greed to ignite a whole new generation into nicotine addiction…

    I have deleted hundreds of vaping links and cash driven ‘comments’ by those who purport to ‘care’ about nicotine reduction…Mike, above, I have removed your sales link as well…and find your finger-pointing at ‘friend’ groups and peers amidst millions in marketing spent to hook kids stat to be laughable not laudable, sorry.

    You might find a more empathetic ear on another site. I find the Altria/Juul tobacco cartels criminal placing profiteering over public health…

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