Janet C. Mangini
v R.J. Reynolds
Joe Camel is Sued
Janet Mangini, a San Francisco based attorney, brought suit against R.J. Reynolds in 1991. She challenged the company for targeting minors with its “Joe Camel” advertising campaign. The Joe Camel character was introduced in 1988 in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the brand.
- 1992 – October 2: Complaint filed
- 1993 – Judge McCabe issues summary judgment for defendant
- 1993 – July 14: Court of Appeals reverses judgment
- 1994 – July 1: California Supreme Court reverses for plaintiff, permitting a legal cause of action regarding youth marketing.
- 1997 – September: Case settled. R.J.R. agrees to pay $10 million for youth education and discontinues Joe Camel ad campaign.
“This equitable relief case was brought by Janet C. Mangini, on behalf of the general public, against R.J. Reynolds on October 2, 1992. The plaintiff alleged that the omission of the federal warning from the defendant’s logo on promotional items violated the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, and was an unfair business practice. She alleged that the advertising campaign was illegally targeted at minors. The plaintiff charged unfair/unlawful business practices, and unjust enrichment. The plaintiff sought an injunction ordering that the defendant be disgorged of their “ill-gotten gains” and requiring corrective advertising warning of health hazards to offset the Old Joe Camel advertisements.
Jenifer Warren covered the case for the NY Times. She reported:
“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 into extended use of and addiction to tobacco products.’”
In 1993, following the decision in Cipollone, Judge Lucy Kelly McCabe granted summary judgment to the defendants on the grounds that the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act preempted the suit. The plaintiffs appealed. On July 14, the Court of Appeal, First District, Division 5, California reversed the decision.
“The court found that the plaintiff’s “glamorizing without disclosure theory” was preempted by the Act, however the theory that the defendants were illegally targeting minors was not. It found that the trial court should have given the plaintiff an opportunity to amend the pleading to plead the latter theory.
The Supreme Court of California (7 Cal.4th 1057) affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment on June 30, 1994. The court found that attempts to regulate or prohibit advertisement of cigarettes are not preempted, even though attempts to regulate sales are. The state could, in compliance with the Act, shield minors from cigarette advertising urging them to smoke. The underlying duty of such an action was not to facilitate or encourage violations of the law. California law made it illegal for children to buy or receive cigarettes, and for retailers to sell to anyone under 18.”
Jenifer Warren on the 1994 decision:
“Hoping to avoid a trial, R.J. Reynolds argued that only the federal government can regulate its advertising. The court disagreed, saying that federal law does not bar states from controlling cigarette promotions–and in fact encourages states to prevent minors from lighting up.
“Congress left the states free to exercise their police power to protect minors from advertising that encourages them to break the law,” Justice Armand Arabian wrote in the court’s unanimous decision. Mangini, he said, may not be blocked by a “nicotine wall of congressional preemption….”
Robert Chartoff, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief for Mangini on behalf of former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, praised the court for “seeing through the legal smoke screen raised by the tobacco industry.”…
Introduced in 1988, the Joe Camel character was initially used for the 75th anniversary of the brand. Wildly popular, the smirking cartoon mascot now appears on beach towels, baseball caps, windbreakers and numerous other items that can be had for free in exchange for proof-of-purchase receipts. Recently, Joe has been joined by a bunch of Josies, who are depicted as smoking Camels around a pool table in a bar.
According to Mangini’s lawsuit, Camel sales to teen-agers surged from $6 million to $476 million in the four years after the debonair dromedary was introduced. Moreover, a 1991 survey by the Journal of the American Medical Assn.–a survey heartily disputed by the tobacco industry–found that some 6-year-olds were nearly as familiar with Joe Camel as with Mickey Mouse.
“Personally, I find it outrageous that this character who is an advocate for smoking has such recognition among children,” Mangini said in an interview. “This is a hip and happening camel, with all the accouterments that young teens would want. By using it, R.J. Reynolds is being very irresponsible.”
In July of 1997, Warren reported:
“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 California cities and counties who intervened in the Mangini litigation. This money was earmarked primarily to fund anti-smoking efforts targeted at youth.”
On September 12, 1997, the Associated Press reported:
“R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has agreed to pay California communities $10 million to settle a lawsuit accusing it of targeting children with Joe Camel. “Joe Camel in California is dead,” San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne said. “The death certificate is officially issued.””
“The settlement, finalized Monday, promises $9 million for anti-smoking education aimed at young people, said Janet Mangini, an attorney who filed the lawsuit in 1991. The rest will cover attorneys fees.”
“It also means California may now enforce a ban on Joe Camel. R.J. Reynolds has repeatedly denied the campaign was aimed at minors. But in July, the company said it would drop the ads for a more lifelike illustration of a camel, used on cigarette packs for generations.”
“The decision came after a settlement this summer between the tobacco industry and state attorneys general that includes a ban on the use of cartoon or human figures in cigarette ads. That settlement has yet to be ratified by Congress.”
“In addition, the Federal Trade Commission moved to ban Joe Camel in May. But Mangini said the company acknowledged in the settlement that her suit was “instrumental” in the decision to drop Joe Camel. As a condition of the settlement in California, R.J. Reynolds admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to release internal marketing documents about the advertising campaign. “This in no way should be construed as a concession on the merits of any of the claims in this case,” Charles A. Blixt, RJR’s general counsel, said Tuesday. “The Joe Camel campaign was directed and highly successful with adults in their 20s who choose to smoke. The agreement we are announcing today simply brings practical closure to this case.”