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  • Writer's pictureJohn Pabon

"Green" tobacco

In honor of World No-Tobacco Day, my favorite piece of tobacco greenwashing.

Natural American Spirit Cigarettes had a bit of a heyday in the early 2000s. They were particularly popular among the hipster set because the company claimed it was a healthy, eco-friendly alternative to other cigarettes (as if there were such a thing!). They sat under parent company, Reynolds American, which is one of the largest tobacco manufacturers in the world. While they shut down their Santa Fe headquarters in 2018, the claims they used are still useful as a case study.

The company has made a number of outlandish claims, including:

“We saved 280,000 paper hand towels in 2010 by installing hand dryers in our Santa Fe office.”

“We saved 30,000 paper cups in 2010 by glazing ceramic mugs for ourselves and for our guests in Santa Fe.”

“Our sales team’s hybrid car fleet saved 312 barrels of oil in 2009.”

“We have been 100% wind powered since 2008.”

What makes these claims so egregious is that they focus exclusively on the environmental efforts of the company while completely ignoring the human health tolls their products produce. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, “...cigarette smoke spews more than 7,000 chemicals into the environment, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer.” This doesn’t even mention the number of cigarette butts thrown away when a smoker finishes their toxic snack. The Campaign notes that at least 5.6 trillion cigarettes are discarded every year. As cigarette butts are non-biodegradable, all the wind power in the world won’t offset the industry’s negative impact.

But hey, at least their guests had nice mugs to drink their coffee from!

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