“Indie Rock Universe” Pull-Out Lights A Fire Under Anti-Tobacco Activist’s Butt

Nov 26th, 2007 // 13 Comments

joecamel.jpgCamel and Rolling Stone are coming under fire for the “Indie Rock Universe” pull-out in the latest 40th-anniversary issue, thanks to the pull-out’s tight integration of advertising content and editorial. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew L. Myers called the graffiti-inspired spread “one great big cigarette ad,” and he’s alleging that the doodly nature of the insert violates a 1998 agreement between tobacco companies and state attorneys general that prohibits the use of cartoons in cigarette ads. Could this be the final nail in the coffin of musicians being used to hawk smokable wares, which reached its peak for me when I went to a Marlboro-sponsored Violent Femmes show that had catering in the late ’90s? I asked the smoker half of the Idolator team for his take on the relationship between Big Tobacco and Little Music in the IM interview after the jump.

cleanlungsmaura: Please state for the record how much you smoke.
JessCamel: I smoke about a pack every two days, sometimes more.
cleanlungsmaura: So have you seen the Camel pull-out, featuring such indie rock luminaries as Parts and Labor?
JessCamel: My brand and one of my favorite albums of the year, together at last.
cleanlungsmaura: Do you find this pairing shocking at all, even though rock clubs have become cigarette-free zones? Is this a way for the tobacco companies to remind people that rock stars sometimes smoke?
JessCamel: I don’t find it shocking at all, given the large clusters of people you see congregating outside of shows to get in as many cigarettes as they can between bands, even in sub-zero temperatures. I would probably guess that the demo going to indie rock shows still has a large number of smokers in it, though I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess at their numbers compared to other subcultures.
cleanlungsmaura: Well, would you generally think it’s larger or smaller than, say, the demo that goes to jam band shows?
JessCamel: Larger, at a total guess based on general lifestyle observations.
cleanlungsmaura: So why do you think people are getting all up in arms about this pairing?
JessCamel: Well because smoking is fucking gross and deadly to be blunt about it. I mean that’s why I’m disgusted by cigarette advertising even as I’m equally irritated (less as a smoker and more as a human who watches TV) by shit like those smug-ass “truth” ads. And smoking is inextricably tied up with big business, which is an automatic liberal/armchair indie culture leftist no-no even if you roll your own pretentious all-natural tobacco smokes. And because there’s always been something of a whole grain aspect to indie rock culture stemming from the side that came out of progressive, Olympia-style indie that stood in something of an opposition to the romantically self-destructive hard rock side that valued things like smoking yourself into an iron lung as you pickled your innards with cheap booze and listened to loud pigfuck noize. I’m sure the rise of NPR adult alternative has something to do with it too, as hipster parents listening to Sufjan as they prepare their organic meals are not particularly happy with the bands they love being associated with an unhealthy lifestyle choice.
JessCamel: Also it’s something to do in a slow news cycle. Which is probably the biggest part, sadly.
cleanlungsmaura: Do you think that big splashy spreads sponsored by alcohol companies will get the same scrutiny?
JessCamel: No.
cleanlungsmaura: Why?
JessCamel: They would certainly get a level of scrutiny, but people don’t reserve the same “you’re killing yourself and others” ire for alcohol, unless we’re talking about drunk driving. Alcohol just hasn’t been demonized as much as cigarettes have over the last few decades. And rightly so.
cleanlungsmaura: So do you think this is going to be the last gasp for music-tobacco promotions? I’m trying to rack my brain for the last time I saw a video where someone smoked a cigarette (as opposed to an expensive cigar) and I can’t even think of one.
JessCamel: Oh I doubt it’s the last gasp. Those cigarette companies are almost adorably tricky, you know? They will find a workaround.
cleanlungsmaura: Care to pie-in-the-sky a workaround?
JessCamel: I mean its probably not the last gasp, but the gasps keep getting shorter and more shallow. You know?
cleanlungsmaura: Ha ha.
JessCamel: Also, you should probably put in something about how I’m going to quit smoking again (I swear) because the coughing when i work out is getting kinda counterproductive.

Antismoking Activist Calls Rolling Stone Insert ‘One Great Big Cigarette Ad’ [NYT]


  1. Michaelangelo Matos

    I don’t think it’s possible to count the # of nightclubs and live-music venues that make up a lot of their income from tobacco money–just look at the names on the napkins at the next bar/club you go to.

  2. loudersoft

    Kurt Cobain smoked Camel Lights.

    Nevr forgit.

  3. Anonymous

    I still have trouble believing that advertising has any impact on kids smoking. It’s allllllll about the peer pressure.

  4. AL

    why is that penis wearing sunglasses?

  5. BawstonSean

    They’ve semi-sorta banned smoking in Tennesse – you can only allow smoking if your venue is 21+. Local rockers never really payed attention at shows anyway, but now everybody is paying a cover to hang out on the sidewalk…

  6. troutblood

    Chicago is about to become like DC and New York with the non-smoking thing. It’s not going to affect anyone’s behavior. It’s true, we all just stand outside and puff away. Either way, I’ve been to several awesome shows recently that have been sponsored by “Big Tobacco” or “Big Booze”. I mostly like the free tobacco and booze. (Spoon was pretty alright, though) And I “roll [my] own pretentious all-natural tobacco smokes.” Frankly, who gives a fuck? Smoking is a nasty habit. I do it. So do a lot of my friends. Eventually, we’ll die. So will you. Any time the cigarette fairy shows up at a show, however, I’ll always give him a fake email address to get free squares.

  7. Hiphopopotamus

    Hey now! We don’t roll our own smokes because its pretentious… we do it because we are cheap, cheap tightwads. Just setting the record straight.

  8. Juancho

    I saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings last week in Cleveland. The drummer lit a cig and smoked right on stage while warming up. And their lead guitarist was a little late to the stage, and when he walked past me, he reeked of weed.

  9. SuperUnison

    American Spirits, I’ll be damned if I give my death money to anybody but RJR-Nabisco.

    I personally think indie rock needs more smoking and drinking, corporate sponsorship be damned. Can we please get a kick ass noise rock band that is sponsored by Taco Bell, Marlboro, and Jack Daniels? Can it please be sent from the future like the dude in “Terminator” for the express purpose of sparing us another Fifty States album?

  10. TheMojoPin

    I wanna lick that camel.

  11. TheEntire1985DenverBroncos

    I went to a Flaming Lips show sponsored by Camel and could only describe it as a Cigarette Carnival. They even handed out free drinks, cigarettes, and set up a smoking lounge with couches and what not under a tent outside. I smoke, and even I was creeped out.

  12. worldsfair

    man i must’ve looked at that Camel spread a few dozen times online and offline b/c 1990s are on there and (hahahahaha) i HAD NO IDEA it was a cigarette ad;)

    disclosure: long-time smoker, first rate baller!

  13. Anonymous

    The Camel kids with their messenger bags full of free smokes still hit Detroit music venues on a very regular basis; no luck banning smoking in this here rustbelt!

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