A new study shows that even without cartoon characters, cigarette ads are getting noticed by kids. The study focused on a recent ad for Camel No.9 that featured a pink camel and a sub-brand of cigarettes called Stiletto.

According to the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, the ads for Camel No. 9 cigarettes were a huge hit with girls ages 12 to 16. The ads, which ran in such magazines as Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Glamour, also included promotional giveaways such as berry-flavored lip balm, cell phone jewelry, purses and wristbands, the study says.

David Howard, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, (the parent company of Camel), says the ads were aimed at adults, noting that 85 percent of the magazines' readers are over 18. As part of the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement with state attorneys general, tobacco companies agreed not to target kids.  

But the study shows that the definition of "targeted to kids" may need to be redifined. The researchers found that, for boys, the proportion who had a favorite cigarette ad remained stable throughout the five surveys. For girls, however, there was a marked difference from the last study.  

In 2008, within a year of the ads' debut, 22 percent of the 1,036 girls questioned for the study listed Camel as their favorite cigarette ad. That's twice the number who listed Camel as their favorite in four earlier interviews taken for the study. The study's authors make the case that this is strong evidence on the power of Camel's advertising. 

"This article presents credible evidence that the Camel No. 9 cigarette advertising campaign has targeted underaged girls," the researchers wrote.

Being able to remember a tobacco ad shows that kids are taking an interest in cigarettes, says study co-author John Pierce of the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California-San Diego. Non-smoking teens who can name a favorite ad are 50 percent more likely to begin smoking than other kids, the study says. And according to Tom Glynn of the American Cancer Society, ads don't need to include cartoon characters to appeal to young people. In fact, ads that depict smoking as fashionable and grown-up actually make it more attractive to teens, he says. About 80 percent of smokers take up the habit before age 18.

Camel No. 9 is still on shelves, but spokesman Howard says R.J. Reynolds pulled print ads for its cigarettes in 2008.

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