Camel 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: 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.