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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Cigarette's use of Kaua'i name draws objections

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Health Writer

Kaua'i residents and anti-smoking advocates are outraged by a new national ad campaign for a type of Camel cigarette called "Kauai Kolada," saying the hula girl come-on for the pineapple- and coconut-flavored cigarettes is culturally insensitive and targeted at kids.

An ad for Camel brand cigarettes using the "Kaua'i" name has been called culturally insensitive and contrary to the island's reputation.

Advertiser library photo

"I am appalled that this company has chosen to use the Kaua'i name to market a product that kills," Kaua'i Mayor Bryan Baptiste said in a written statement.

Mary Williamson, vice chairwoman of Tobacco-Free Kauai, noted that most adult smokers already have a preferred brand. "So, who are these candy-flavored cigarettes for?" she said.

A spokesperson for manufacturer R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Kaua'i Visitors Bureau sent a letter on July 15 to R.J. Reynolds asking that the company not repeat the ad campaign beyond its initial push.

Sue Kanoho, the Kaua'i Visitor Bureau's executive director, wrote the letter after seeing the ad in People magazine as well as Sports Illustrated.

"We were a little taken aback," Kanoho said. "I'm not sure it speaks to the Hawaiian culture very well."

She wrote to the company that "our organization and our individual members have received many phone calls and letters against our island's name being associated with your product."

While Kanoho understands that it's legal for the company to use the island name, she feels the image conflicts sharply with the island's overall reputation for natural beauty, health and wellness.

Cigarette makers have come under increasing fire for advertising that appears to be aimed at young people.

Maui resident Michelle Della, a member of the REAL Hawaii Youth Movement Against Tobacco Use, said it's obvious the ads are targeted at 13- to 18-year-olds.

"It looks really pleasing and refreshing so it attracts a younger age group," said Della, an 18-year-old from Kahului who will be a freshman at Washington State University. "I think it's like a tropical kind of drink but a tropical cigarette at the same time."

The ad shows a dark-haired woman wearing a flowered bikini top and a hula skirt lying atop packs of cigarettes, holding a cigarette in one hand and a coconut-shell drink in the other.

The cigarette pack label promises "Hawaiian hints of pineapple and coconut." The ad indicates the "Kauai Kolada" variety, along with a "Twista Lime" cigarette, will be available for a limited time.

Baptiste said the ad campaign inappropriately uses the county's identity to sell cigarettes. "The word 'Kaua'i' is not just the name of our home. It is representative of our culture and our community," he said.

Williamson added, "We're outraged that they abused our island name for a product that brings death, disease and addiction, especially when Kaua'i often is marketed as a healing place."

Williamson said she wonders what the reaction would be in other communities to see a familiar image used in an ad. "Would it be equally offensive to use an image of Lady Liberty or Mount Rushmore to sell cigarettes?" she said.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2429.