Heartland’s Bast – “Joe Camel is Innocent!”

March 5, 2012

The heartless head of the anti-science Heartland “think” tank, Joe Bast, has been a trusted and enthusiastic mouthpiece for one of the world’s most murderous industries for decades. Last week, I posted Bast’s Love Letter to Big Tobacco. That was only one small part of the loving attention lavished by Mr. Bast on his earliest and most fervent supporters. (recent documents show that big tobacco is still a big contributor to Heartland)

Long before he began his relentless promotion of climate denial misinformation, one of Bast’s most famous and despicable writings was his defense of the “Joe Camel” cigarette sales campaign – “Joe Camel is Innocent”.

For those that don’t remember, the campaign, featuring a friendly cartoon camel with a dangling cigarette, sprang from a series of RJ Reynolds internal memos, pointing out the importance of hooking young smokers early, during the years of critical brain development when they are most vulnerable to forming addictive behavior. In his recent deep-delving investigation into Heartland, and its relationship with big tobacco – Ace researcher John Mashey reveals what RJR wrote in the mid 80s

Younger adults are the only source of replacement smokers.

Repeated government studies have shown that:

• Less than one-third of smokers (31%) start after age 18.

• Only 5% of smokers start after age 24 .

Thus, today’s younger adult smoking behavior will largely determine the trend of Industry volume over the next several decades . If younger adults turn away from smoking, the Industry must decline, just as a population which does not give birth will eventually dwindle. In such an environment, a positive RJR sales trend would require disproportionate share gains and/or steep price increases (which could depress volume)

MARKET SHARE — THE “FIRST BRAND” ADVANTAGE …”

“… the average age at which smokers had started smoking had declined over the last decade until by 1985 it was around 16.

In 1987, RJR started the Joe Camel campaign. By 1991, they found that ” by age of six over ninety percent of American kids were able to recognize Joe Camel;… about the same name (and face) recognition as Mickey Mouse. …

The memos identified RJR’s targets as “young adults” – as young as 14.

In “Joe Camel is Innocent”, Bast rails against the idea that using a cartoon character could possibly have any impact on a target audience of young people.  He also takes special umbrage at coverage of tobacco industry tactics by the media, in particular ABC’s Peter Jennings –

Earlier this summer, ABC’s Peter Jennings hosted an hour-long “news special” titled “Never Say Die: Why the Tobacco Industry Keeps Winning.” A Garry Wills column, titled “Lies Tobacco Companies Tell Us,” has appeared in newspapers across the country. And Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole has been widely denounced for saying a few words that were vaguely supportive of smokers’ rights.

According to both Wills and Jennings, the fact that “Joe Camel” is a cartoon somehow proves that Camels’ manufacturer, R.J. Reynolds, is targeting kids. But cartoons are used to pitch scores of products that could only be of use to adults. Last time I checked, people under the age of 18 weren’t major buyers of life insurance, household cleaners, automobile rustproofing, or tires–yet Snoopy, Mr. Clean, Rusty Jones, and the Michelin Man are used to promote those products. Joe Camel is innocent!

In a familiar construction, Bast tells his readers that “sound science” does not support the risks of second hand smoke. Today, of course, the American Cancer Society website makes it very clear that “secondhand smoke causes cancer” 

American Cancer Society

Secondhand smoke is classified as a “known human carcinogen” (cancer-causing agent) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization.

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds. More than 250 of these chemicals are known to be harmful, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer.

SHS has been linked to lung cancer. There is also some evidence suggesting it may be linked with childhood leukemia and cancers of the larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), brain, bladder, rectum, stomach, and breast.


Secondhand smoke can cause harm in many ways. Each year in the United States alone, it is responsible for:

  • An estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease in people who are current non-smokers
  • About 3,400 nonsmoking adults die of lung cancer as a result of breathing SHS
  • Worse asthma and asthma -related problems in up to 1 million asthmatic children
  • Between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in children under 18 months of age, and lung infections resulting in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year

Add these to Heartland’s many accomplishments that Bast has lauded in his Love Letters to the Tobacco Industry.  It’s all just a warmup for Heartland and it’s sister “think tanks”. Why settle for mere millions of deaths from tobacco sales, when global warming can bring on mass extinctions of multiple species right along with billions of human deaths?

Epilogue:
Long time ABC anchorman, Peter Jennings, despite quitting smoking in his 40s, nevertheless died of lung cancer on August 7, 2005.

Another Heartland success story.

Heartland president Joe Bast is preparing another campaign, that most certainly will draw on the experience gained in the tobacco wars.  Now the think tank that has faithfully served the tobacco industry wants to bring “Climate Skeptic Education” to your school, your children.

Is this really the man you want inside your child’s head?

22 Responses to “Heartland’s Bast – “Joe Camel is Innocent!””


  1. […] Lordship on it anywhere. Watt’s Up? Is this an indication that his Lordship is too crazy even for professional crazies? C’mon guys, its not like he’s the Una-bomber or […]


  2. […] of the radical conservative, anti-science movement. Well known climate denial institutions like the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute are but tiny suckers on the tentacles of ALEC. The primary […]


  3. […] posted in the past about Bast and his slavish devotion to the Tobacco agenda, a template for his climate denial advocacy of the last […]


  4. […] Heartland Institute, famous for misinforming on the Health effects of cigarettes, and the bogus science of climate denial, now promotes the views of the creationist Discovery Institute, in attacking Science education as […]


  5. […] Heartland Institute of course, is famous for defending not only climate denial, but the Tobacco Industry’s “right” to sell cigarettes to children with the “Joe Came…The video below makes the point at […]


  6. […] to the Vatican, they claim, to “educate” Pope Francis about climate change. Perhaps the famously pro-tobacco activists will educate him about the safety of tobacco products as […]


  7. […] Joe Camel is Innocent! Heartland’s Bast – “Joe Camel is Innocent!” […]


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