Joe Camel was concieved in late 1987 by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco (RJR) marketing team. At that time, RJR's staff found that the Camel brand was be known as an "old-man's cigarette". The staff wanted a new campaign to attract younger customers.
In 1991, the American Medical Association published a study showing that more children 5 and 6 years old could recognize Joe Camel easier than Mickey Mouse or Fred Flintstone. This showed about effective the "Joe Camel" campaign was targeting children. Also, over 1/3 of all cigarettes sold illegally to underage buyers were Camels.
The AMA asked RJR Nabisco to pull to campaign. RJR refused, and the Joe Camel Campaign continued. In 1993 and 1994, more appeals to end the campaign followed.
On July 10, 1997 RJR annouced it would end its Joe Camel campaign. A new campaign with a more adult theme debuted. Instead of Joe Camel, it had a plain image of a quadrupedal camel.
Today, the Joe Camel campaign is a reminder of how easily children are tricked by advertising and marketing.
Some people associate Ronald McDonald of McDonald's with Joe Camel, due to blame on fast food for obesity and its ilk.