Cigarette ads have tobacco foes fuming

By Wendy Koch, USA Today

A green cigarette? New magazine ads touting cigarettes with "additive-free" organic tobacco use the term "eco-friendly," prompting anti-smoking activists to fume.

The ads for Natural American Spirit cigarettes make the claim next to a list of environmental efforts by the manufacturer, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. They began appearing in March in magazines such as Esquire, Field & Stream, Wired, Mother Jones, Elle and Marie Claire.

"It's an egregious ad. It's trying to greenwash a deadly and addictive product," says Vince Willmore of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, adding research shows cigarettes also are the No. 1 source of litter. "When you hear a product is eco-friendly, you think it's better for you."

The tobacco company, owned by Reynolds American Inc., says it's not saying its cigarettes are safer but that its manufacturing is greener. It says its facilities are wind-powered, its farmers use fewer chemicals and 70 percent of its sales staff drive hybrid vehicles.

"We try to be good stewards of the environment," says spokesman Seth Moskowitz. Noting concern about littering of cigarette butts, he says a sister company helps fund Keep America Beautiful.

The magazine ads reflect the surging popularity of green marketing as more than 100 eco-related product labels are now used in the USA.

"This is a perfect example of why green marketing is broken," says Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz.com, which covers business environmental efforts. He says marketers latch on to anything that can be considered green so the term becomes meaningless.

Makower says the company may be accurate in describing its greening initiatives, which he welcomes, but adds, "Products that harm people should not be marketed as green,"

The tobacco company has faced similar complaints before. In 2000, after advertising its cigarettes as free of additives, the Federal Trade Commission negotiated a settlement that required it to include this statement: "No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette." In 2010, after marketing its "organic" tobacco, 33 state attorneys general demanded the company include a statement saying the cigarette was not safer as a result.

The new ads include such disclaimers, but Willmore's group is again appealing to the attorneys general to take action.

"It is misleading to talk about being eco-friendly in a cigarette ad," given the problems of littering and secondhand smoke, says Jeanne Finberg, a deputy attorney general in California who focuses on litigation.

Says Makower: "The average person is going to look at that ad and ask, 'What are they smoking?'"

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

States urged to continue anti-tobacco ads

Jul 06, 2005

Teenagers who are exposed to state-sponsored anti-tobacco advertising are less likely to smoke, University of Illinois at Chicago researchers said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Health care organizations see value of telemedicine

9 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Health care organizations are developing and implementing telemedicine programs, although many have yet to receive reimbursement, according to a report published by Foley & Lardner.

Before you go... are you in denial about death?

16 hours ago

For most of us, death conjures up strong feelings. We project all kinds of fears onto it. We worry about it, dismiss it, laugh it off, push it aside or don't think about it at all. Until we have to. Of course, ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Jesse_EngAmer
not rated yet Aug 08, 2011
How a product is advertised is not up to the government as long as customers are clearly and honestly informed. According to this article, smokers are not being misled, as the cigarettes are not healthier themselves.

Why shouldnt a company be proud of its environmentally friendly processes regardless of the product?

With labels like may be hazardous to your health and may result in death that have been in effect for years not as small fine print, but large bold proclamations, you cant get any clearer than that yet for the FDA to require further labeling restrictions, such as determining how theyre to be marketed is obvious over-reach, an infringement upon constitutionally protected commercial speech.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Aug 08, 2011
Why shouldnt a company be proud of its environmentally friendly processes regardless of the product?
Yeah it produces environmentally friendly corpses which are through consuming and polluting. If left to rot they would be home for many natural living creatures.

Burning organic tobacco produces additive-free and eco-friendly dirt which smokers suck deep into their lungs, thereby hastening their conversion into eco-friendly corpses.

STFU stinking smoker. Go rationalize your idiot disease somewhere else.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Aug 08, 2011
It occurs to me that tobacco companies would be even more environmentally friendly if the didnt exist at all. No more smoker droppings filling up gutters and sticking to the bottom of our shoes. No more smell. Etc.

We can only continue to work toward those ends.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.