08/16/2007 12:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Putting Profits Ahead of Readers' Health

Smoking kills, right? Everyone knows that. It kills not only smokers, but people who live and work around smokers. That's why cities, counties and even states around the country have enacted workplace smoking bans. And that's why there was such public outrage when cartoonish Joe Camel ads that look suspiciously like smoking come-ons to kids were plastered all over the place. You'd think that after all that, we wouldn't see the tobacco companies once again try to entice youngsters into a life of smoking addiction with ads clearly targeting them. But you would be wrong.

RJ Reynolds's campaign for its Camel No. 9 ads are clearly targeted at enticing young women to take up smoking. The ads' 'light and luscious' tagline sounds like a tasty treat, not a deadly dose of cancer causing cigarettes wrapped in pretty pink packaging. And where are these lovely little enticements running? Why there in America's biggest and most popular women's magazines, which set the style and trends for the country -- and its young women.

Back in June, 40 of my colleagues joined me in writing to the publishers of 11 leading women's magazines -- Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, InStyle, Interview Magazine, Lucky, Marie Claire, Soap Opera Digest, Us Weekly, Vogue, and W. We asked them to voluntarily stop accepting misleading advertising for deadly cigarettes, particularly for Camel No. 9. Our letter noted the irony of these publications accepting ads aimed at encouraging young women to smoke while simultaneously publishing articles offering important women's health information. Sadly our arguments appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, since not one of the magazines could be bothered to formally respond.

So, after nearly two months passing without a serious response to our concerns, we wrote again on August 1st. This time three of the 11 magazines responded, but none have committed to stop running these deadly ads. In fact, Glamour and Vogue, said they will continue running these ads despite the horrible message being sent to their young readers. Incredibly, Glamour and Vogue continue to assert that they can report and editorialize on the dangers of smoking while simultaneously accepting enticing advertisements for the very product they pretend to decry. W magazine said it would like to discuss this issue further though it has not indicated whether or not it will continue to accept these ads.

It would be nice to think that the other eight magazines -- Cosmopolitan, Elle, InStyle, Interview Magazine, Lucky, Marie Claire, Soap Opera Digest, and Us Weekly -- have been shamed into silence over accepting ads targeting young women and promoting a deadly, and entirely preventable, addiction. But the truth is that at least 10 of these magazines seem to care more about their bottom line profits than the health of their readers, young and old.

One need look no further than their new fall fashion guides, out just in time for back-to-school shopping. Many of the guides feature a special "Fashion" insert which includes a full page ad for Camel No. 9, helpfully noting that it's now available in 'stilletto.' Now the girls and young women who read these magazines for advice on the next hot style can pick up a stylish pair of shoes and a deadly life long addition, all in one easy read.

I hope these women's magazines understand how serious this issue is. There's nothing sexy or fashionable about dying from cancer, and the publishers should be ashamed of themselves for helping the tobacco companies in the search for their next victims.

These magazines need to stop putting profits ahead of their readers' health. They need to quit running these despicable ads.