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Camel Gets Burned in Advertising Suit

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Washington is first of eight states to sue tobacco giant.

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Thus spake a Washington state appeals court yesterday: An image that isn't a necessarily a cartoon nevertheless violates the ban on using cartoons to advertise cigarettes to impressionable young adults.

Reynolds American (RAI) ran an ad in the November 2007 edition of Rolling Stone magazine called "Camel Farm." It showed a woman with a stylishly retro hairdo growing from a green field while a record player, a disembodied hand, and a tractor floated through the sky.

The ad sought to link Camel cigarettes with alternative music. The company argued that the ad was nothing like Joe Camel, an aggressively cool dromedary who played the saxophone and pitched smokes to young adults. The state charged that the advertisement violated a nationwide multi-billion-dollar settlement reached in 1998 that banned the use of cartoon characters.

"The Camel Farm imagery depends entirely upon the suspension of the laws of nature," Appeals Court Judge Anne Ellington said yesterday in the decision, reversing a lower court ruling.

"Under a blue sky in a pastoral Eden, roosters hitch rides on floating tractors, speakers grow out of the ground and radios fly. This is a world where they natural laws do not obtain, where cancer and serious health problems can cease to exist."

Oh, please -- what's the appellate court smoking?

First, every dummy -- even those who don't wear black robes -- knows that smoking will kill you. Cigarettes have long been called "coffin nails." Still, some people choose to smoke. Note to court: People are free to make bad decisions, even in America.

Second, would the court have objected to a PhotoShopped version of the same ad? What if the ad showed a photo of a green field and the other imagery had been digitally added? If the court objected, would that raise concerns about commercial free speech?
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