Camel (cigarette)

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A very old Camel pack from the first half of the 20th century at the Museo del Objeto
Product type Cigarette
Owner R.J. Reynolds Tobacco
Introduced 1913; 104 years ago (1913)

Camel is a brand of cigarettes that was introduced by American company R.J. Reynolds Tobacco in 1913. Most current Camel cigarettes contain a blend of Turkish tobacco and Virginia tobacco. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the city where R.J. Reynolds was founded, is nicknamed "Camel City" because of the brand's popularity.[1]


In 1913, R.J. Reynolds innovated the packaged cigarette.[2] Prior to it cigarette smokers preferred to roll their own, and there was thought to be no national market for pre-packaged cigarettes.[2] Reynolds worked to develop a flavor he thought would be more appealing than past products, creating the Camel cigarette, so named because it used Turkish tobacco,[2] in imitation of then-fashionable Egyptian cigarettes. Reynolds undercut competitors on the cost of the cigarettes, and within a year, he had sold 425 million packs of Camels.[2]

Camel cigarettes were originally blended to have a milder taste than established brands. They were advance-promoted by a careful advertising campaign that included "teasers" which merely stated that "the Camels are coming"[2] (a play on the old Scottish folk song, "The Campbells Are Coming"). This marketing style was a prototype for attempts to sway public opinion that coincided with the United States' entry into World War I, and later World War II. Another promotion strategy was the use of a Circus camel, 'Old Joe', which was driven through town and used to distribute free cigarettes. The brand's catch-phrase slogan, used for decades, was "I'd walk a mile for a Camel!"

The most famous historical style of Camel cigarettes is the original, sold unfiltered in a soft pack (generally known as Camel Straights or Regulars). Camel regular popularity peaked through their use by famous personalities such as news broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, who smoked up to four packs per day, in effect using a Camel cigarette as his trademark, then dying of lung cancer caused by smoking.[3]

A 1915 Camels ad from The New York Times, offering a money-back guarantee and stating, "Premiums or coupons don't go with Camels, because the cost of the choice quality tobaccos makes it impossible for us to give them"

In late 1987, RJR created "Joe Camel" as the mascot for the brand. In 1991, the American Medical Association published a report stating that 5- and 6-year olds could more easily recognize Joe Camel than Mickey Mouse, Fred Flintstone, Bugs Bunny or even Barbie.[4] This led the association to ask RJR to terminate the Joe Camel campaign. RJR declined, but further appeals followed in 1993 and 1994. On July 10, 1997, the Joe Camel campaign was retired and replaced with a more adult campaign which appealed to the desires of twenty-somethings to meet—or be—beautiful and exotic women in 1930s attire and themes.

In Europe, Camel is also a brand of cigarette rolling papers and cigarette roll-your-own tobacco. It maintains a top 20 level brand of roll-your-own tobacco and papers in Northern Europe with yearly expansion into Southern and Eastern Europe according to the European Subsidiary's annual report.

On July 1, 2000, The cigarette known as the "Oriental" variety of Camel cigarette appears on the market. In 2000, Reynolds Tobacco introduced Camel Turkish Gold, a regular cigarette. In 2001, the company introduced Camel Turkish Jade, a menthol cigarette.

In 2005, Camel implemented new changes to the Oriental flavors by adding the name on the cigarette paper and changing the filter color and design. Also in 2005, Turkish Silvers were introduced. These serve as the ultralight version of the three Turkish blends. Turkish Royal serves as the "full flavor" version, and Turkish Gold serves as the "lights" version. A menthol version, Turkish Jade, after being discontinued, was reintroduced is also part of the Turkish Blends. After burning, the text on the paper is often still visible on the ashes which are also seen in Camel straights.[citation needed][citation needed]

The Turkish tobacco that is used in Camel cigarettes has a much more distinctive odor when burned as compared to other cigarettes.[citation needed] Filtered Camel cigarettes sold outside the US by JT International do not contain Turkish tobacco, instead they are produced in Romania with local tobacco.[citation needed]

In 2012 Camel was surpassed by Pall Mall as R.J. Reynolds' most popular brand.[5]

As of June 2012, Camel filters were discontinued in the United Kingdom. Camel Blue, the light version, is available from Tesco.

In 2013, Camel celebrated its 100th anniversary. Professor Robert N. Proctor of Stanford University commemorated the occasion with an editorial in the LA Times, noting that over the last century Camel sold over 4 trillion cigarettes.[6]


Smoking billboard, Times Square, 1948
Camel Natural Flavor — "smoking may reduce the blood flow and causes impotence" (European tobacco package warning)

Graphic design[edit]

The animal in the logo is a dromedary, the smallest of the three species of camel.

The signature scene on most Camel cigarette packs shows a single dromedary standing on desert sand, with pyramids and palm trees in the background.

On the back of the cigarette pack is another desert scene, featuring this time bazaars and mosques. On European and some other non-U.S. versions, the desert scenes have been replaced by a health warning.

The Reynolds company commissioned Fred Otto Kleesattel in 1913 to draw the original camel.

Known as "Fritz", Kleesattel was a highly sought after graphic designer living in Louisville, Kentucky. He was hired through his company, Klee Ad Art, to design the packaging for the new Camel cigarettes' line. Klee Ad Art was also integral in devising designs for Four Roses Distillery, Heaven Hill Distilleries, and many other now immediately recognizable U.S. brands. While serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, Kleesattel worked as a camouflage artist, disguising buildings, vehicles and other potential targets by making them blend with their surroundings.

Package texts[edit]

The reverse sides of many packs or boxes of Camel cigarettes display variations of the following text:

Turkish tobacco is the world's smoothest, most aromatic leaf. Blending it with more robust domestic tobaccos is the secret to Camel's distinctive flavor and world-class smoothness.

In 2008, this was changed to:

A master-crafted blend of only the finest hand-picked Samsun & Izmir Turkish tobaccos with a robust domestic tobacco blend creates Camel's distinctive flavor and world-class smoothness.

The reverse side of the five "Turkish Blend" cigarettes display this message along with a description that differs depending on the blend:

Turkish tobacco is the world's smoothest, most aromatic leaf.

The reverse side of unfiltered "soft pack" Camel cigarettes has displayed this text for many years, a theme also used by R. J. Reynolds in its advertising as early as 1915:

Don't look for premiums or coupons, as the cost of the tobaccos blended in Camel Cigarettes prohibits the use of them.

Or alternatively can be seen displaying the text (later removed from some packets with the introduction of health warning messages):

Camel, a premium blend of the finest quality tobaccos, provides genuine smoking pleasure.

The reverse side of unfiltered "soft pack" Camel cigarettes, produced by JT International reads:

CAMEL cigarettes contain a blend of choice Turkish and American tobaccos to bring you full smoking satisfaction with CAMEL quality.

Camel Wides, starting in 2008, began displaying this on the reverse side of the pack:

The larger gauge of a Camel Wides cigarette makes for the smoothest, flavorful way to enjoy Camel's distinctive blend of the finest Turkish and Domestic tobaccos.

Joe Camel[edit]

Joe Camel was a controversial cartoon camel that primarily appeared in advertisements for Camel, but also appeared on "Camel Cash" and origami Pop-up print ads. Joe Camel came under scrutiny as some considered use of the character to be advertising directed at children. Camel paid millions of dollars to settle lawsuits accusing them of using Joe Camel to market smoking to children.[7] His image was removed from Camel Cash in July, 1997, and discontinued in advertisements.

Camel Cash[edit]

"Camel Cash", or "C-Note" (C-Note = 5 US cents), was a coupon stuck to the back of filtered varieties of Camel cigarettes. It was made to resemble currency and could be exchanged for items from the Camel Cash catalog. It was accompanied by a message telling smokers not to look for premiums or coupons on the cigarettes.

The artwork changed many times over the years, and in the past included the face of Joe Camel, much in the same way as presidents are featured on American currency. Camel Cash redemption expired on March 31, 2007.


The Lotus 100T sponsored by Camel.

From 1972–1993, Camel was the title sponsor of the then-popular IMSA auto racing series, titled as Camel GT. From 1987 to 1990, Camel sponsored the Lotus Formula One team, and then sponsored the Benetton team and the Williams team from 1991 to 1993, Camel's last year as a sponsor in Formula One. In the early to mid-1990s, Camel sponsored the factory Honda team in the AMA Superbike series, as well as sponsoring the USHRA and AMA Supercross Championship, resulting in the Camel Mud & Monster Series, and the Camel Supercross Series. In 1994 Winston Cup season of NASCAR, Camel sponsored Hut Stricklin's #23 Ford Thunderbird & In 1995-97 Winston Cup season's of NASCAR, Camel sponsored Jimmy Spencer's #23 Ford Thunderbird. From 2003-2005 Camel was the title sponsor of Sito Pons' MotoGP Team and then for the 2006 season Camel signed on to become the title sponsor of Yamaha's factory team, but due to European Tobacco Regulations, the company had to end their association with Yamaha at the end of the 2006 Grand Prix motorcycle racing season.

Football (soccer)[edit]

Camel was a sponsor of the 1986 FIFA World Cup.[8]

Break free adventure[edit]

In 2010, R.J. Reynolds planned to sell Camel packs showing one of ten locations to be visited by the Camel mascot, including Seattle, Washington; Austin, Texas; San Francisco, Las Vegas; New Orleans; Bonneville Flats, Utah; Sturgis, South Dakota; Route 66; and the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Winston-Salem package showed a tobacco field and the city's skyline, including the former R.J. Reynolds headquarters. During a ten-week period, visitors to a website were asked to guess which city would be next. Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, accused the company of targeting children once again, saying, "The new campaign cynically uses the names and images of trendy U.S. destinations … in an attempt to make Camel cigarettes cool again." David Howard of R.J. Reynolds emphasized the campaign was geared toward adults and pointed out only adults could access the website.[9][10][11]

New York City health commissioner Thomas Farley and the National Association of Attorneys General both sent Reynolds letters asking that the campaign is stopped. The organization said that it violated the 1998 tobacco settlement. Reynolds denied that children were being targeted and said the campaign did not go against the settlement. Other cities and states also stated their objections including San Francisco and Seattle.[11]

"More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette"[edit]

In the 1940s, Camel advertised their cigarettes as being the favorite choice among doctors, making smokers believe it was safe to smoke them.[12][13]

In art[edit]

The Camel pack is featured prominently in Tom Robbins' 1980 novel Still Life with Woodpecker, billed as "a love story that happens inside a pack of cigarettes". The book's artwork is modeled after a pack of Camels, and the package artwork and history are discussed extensively in the book. It is also mentioned that a pack of Camels is the best friend you have in prison.

The cover of the album Mirage by the band Camel resembles the cigarette packaging.

A pack of Camel Filters appears amongst other paraphernalia on the cover of Brian Eno's first solo album Here Come the Warm Jets.

A stylized drawing of the Camel cigarette pack is used as the front cover of the 1971 album Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime by the San Francisco psychedelic band It's a Beautiful Day.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Erickson, Amanda; Erickson, Amanda (2013-05-23). "In North Carolina, a tale of two cities in one". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-02-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Burrough, Bryan (2003). Barbarians at the Gate. HarperCollins. pp. 40, 46. 
  3. ^ Hilliard, Robert L. & Keith, Michael C. (2005). The broadcast century and beyond. Elsevier. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-240-80570-2. 
  4. ^ Fischer PM, Schwartz MP, Richards JW Jr, Goldstein AO, Rojas TH (1991-12-11). "Brand logo recognition by children aged 3 to 6 years". JAMA. 266 (22): 3145–8. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470220061027. PMID 1956101. Retrieved March 6, 2007. 
  5. ^ Craver, Richard (2012-09-26). "Reynolds to offer more menthol versions of Pall Mall cigarettes". Winston-Salem Journal. 
  6. ^ Proctor, Robert (2013-10-20). "Camels: 100 years and still killing." Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ "Reynolds will pay $10 million in Joe Camel lawsuit". USA Today. 1997-09-12. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  9. ^ Craver, Richard (2010-11-15). "Camel promotion under fire". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  10. ^ Wilson, Duff (2010-11-12). "Group Says Camel Packs Lure the Young". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-01. 
  11. ^ a b Felberbaum, Michael (2010-12-01). "State AGs ask RJ Reynolds to stop Camel cigarette 'Break Free Adventure' marketing campaign". Star-Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved 2012-11-01. 
  12. ^ "Rewind: 1949 Cigarette Spot Declares 'Doctors Smoke Camels'". Retrieved 2016-03-09. 
  13. ^ "Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising". Stanford School of Medicine. 

External links[edit]