Cameron was born Susan Hickok in Schenectady, New York. Her father was a manager with General Electric and her mother was a secretary and school volunteer. The family moved to Florida when she was two, and she graduated from Ft. Lauderdale High Schoolin 1976. She earned a B.S. in business from the University of Florida in 1980 and an MBA from Bellarmine University in 1984.
Cameron's first job in the industry was as sales representative for Brown Williamson in 1981. She was promoted to district sales manager in 1983, then moved to London in 1990 to serve as a brand director for Brown and Williamson's parent company, British American Tobacco. In 1994 she became Director of Marketing in China, based in Hong Kong, and moved back to England in 1996 to become Head of International Brands.
Cameron returned to the United States and to Brown Williamson in 1999 to join the company's executive committee and serve as senior vice president of marketing.Cameron was named president and CEO of Brown Williamson in January 2001, making her the first woman CEO of a major cigarette business.
In July 2004, Brown Williamson combined with R. J. Reynolds, and Reynolds American, Inc. was created as a new holding company, with R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as its chief operating subsidiary. Cameron became president and CEO of the company in 2004. She became chairman in January 2006. She also served as chairman of R. J. Reynolds from July 2004 through April 2008. As head of Reynolds American, Cameron has guided the company's efforts into the smokeless tobacco category, including the introduction of products such as Camel snus and dissolvables.
In December 2010 Cameron retired as the chairwoman of Reynolds. In February 2011 she left her positions as president and chief executive, with Daan Delen taking her place. At the time of her retirement Cameron had said that she was leaving her jobs in order to spend more time with her husband and family, in addition to pursuing her philanthropic interests.
In January 2014 Cameron re-joined the board at Reynolds, after spending several years in retirement. On May 1 she returned to the role of CEO. Ten weeks after her return from retirement to head Reynolds American, the company announced that it was planning to purchase Lorillard for $27.4 billion. The deal, which took place in mid-July, 2014, was history-making: the acquisition is the largest to have been led by a woman.
Cameron does not deny that cigarette smoking can be dangerous. "Smoking harms people," she said. Reynolds' Chairman of the Board Tom Wajnert said that Cameron takes a strong stand about the dangers of smoking: "Susan has been more open and aggressive than most people in the industry." He adds, "We all feel the same way. Cigarettes are deadly. They kill people. But at the same time, it's a legal product."
Then known as Susan Ivey, in 2010 she was ranked 22nd in Fortune magazine's listing of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. In Forbes magazine's listing of the World's Most Powerful Women in 2010 she was ranked number 75.
Reynolds American, Inc. (NYSE: RAI) is an American tobacco company and is the second-largest tobacco company in the United States. Its holdings include R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, American Snuff Company (formerly Conwood Company), Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company and Niconovum AB.
Reynolds American's subsidiaries manufacture and market a variety of tobacco products, including cigarettes (Newport, Camel, Pall Mall, Kent, Doral, Misty, Capri and Natural American Spirit brands) and moist snuff (Grizzly and Kodiak brands).