Humped by Joe Camel
The people who make your breakfast cereal, RJ Reynolds/Nabisco, are also the drivers of Joe Camel’s after hours cigarette caravan. The tobacco giant is on the carpet before a US Grand Jury for its alleged part in the 1992-96 “Cigarette Wars”, which the feds believe saw about a billion dollars worth of tobacco and liquor smuggled into Canada through the Mohawk Indian Reserve at Akwesasne, straddling the US/Canada border.
Native people point to the 1785 “Jay Treaty” that permits them unrestricted passage between the two countries. American officials are rather curious about the corporate activities of RJR employees in both nations, especially after learning of alleged face-to-face involvement by RJR management with many key players of what became an enormous “free zone” smuggling operation on the Indian reservation.
A truck driver transporting contraband got caught and agreed to give evidence against his sponsors in return for immunity. He revealed to an RCMP agent that he was in the room when RJR managers and the smuggling council met to discuss big-time smuggling.
The resulting Tobacco War was a simple, yet very profitable tax dodge. Cigarettes legally exported tax-free from Canada to the US were then promptly smuggled back into Canada, where they were sold somewhat cheaper than similar, heavily taxed legal tobacco. Big Money.
Canadian government intervention into “indian life” in the early 90’s was strictly avoided as the informal concept of “indian land” was being entertained as policy option. The arrival of “indian commerce” (aka smuggling) was taken with a bucket of salt by the feds, but they would not tolerate the cultivation of “indian marijuana” on the reservation. Mohawk Warriors faced down Canada’s military until the helicopters came, and they continue to grow acres of marijuana.
RJR/Nabisco’s campaign to keep the smokes flowing was not all cowboys and indians. Tobacco advertising of the saturation bombing variety enraged parents, whose young children easily recognized and came to love the butt-puffing cartoon character Joe Camel more than the sacred rodent Mickey Mouse or benevolent burger-bringer clown Ronald MacDonald. Even though Joe never appeared on Sesame Street, these hip kids must have been reading adult lifestyle magazines and listening to jazz to pick up on the antics of the RJR dromedary hipster as he puffed away in couch-potato, cartoon heaven.
RJR/Nabisco, fearing a public relations nightmare, promptly withdrew Joe Camel from circulation. They continue to sell his product to adults however, knowing that cartoon characters do not die in the imagination of children.