Tobacco advertisements are interesting reading these days. Gone are the days when tobacco companies could promote they had “scientific evidence on the effect of smoking,” using famous celebrities of the day. Today’s ads are jumping on the bandwagon of the times and going green, trying to push the eco-friendliness of the tobacco product. Exactly how can R.J. Reynolds Natural American Spirit cigarettes suddenly become eco-friendly, when they sell a product known to kill over 5 million people every year worldwide? Does organically-grown, “additive-free” make these cigarettes any less deadly?
First, you need to know what the words “eco-friendly” mean. According to Wikipedia, the term is used to refer to goods and services which “claim to inflict minimal or no harm on the environment.” What a great product. No harm on the environment must mean that their cigarettes are somehow different then the other tons of cigarette litter that is flicked onto beaches, sidewalks and roadways every year around the world. Their cigarettes still contain a cellulose acetate filter which can take decades to degrade and the tars and nicotine in those filters are deadly to wildlife. No points scored here on being better for the environment.
Second, organically-grown products are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides; however, compost and manure can generally be used as fertilizer. The company claims they don’t use “…Tobacco Additives, Tobacco Preservatives, Tobacco Flavorings, Reconstituted Sheet Tobacco, Scrap Tobacco, Processed Stems, or Expanded Tobacco” in their product. If they don’t use “tobacco additives or preservatives,” do they use other types of additives or preservatives? When these cigarettes are past their expiration date, does the company throw them away versus grinding them up and adding them to new tobacco like they do when manufacturing other cigarettes? Do they clean to tobacco to get rid of any outside pollutants?
Third, using the words “addictive-free” makes the cigarette sound as if it is safe, but it is not. In Europe, where Natural American Spirit is also sold, the levels for tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide are much lower than here in the U.S. The yellow pack sold in Germany contains 5 mg of tar, 0.6 mg of nicotine and 6 mg of carbon monoxide, while here in the U.S. the yellow packs has 10.9 mg of tar, 1.30 mg of nicotine. Carbon monoxide levels remain the same. The brown pack has a staggering 27.9 mg of tar and 2.72 mg of nicotine. Carbon monoxide levels for the brown pack aren’t even given. R.J. Reynolds can claim their product is addictive-free, but it appears that cigarettes sold in the U.S. are more addictive with twice the amount of nicotine as the European counterparts.
To be fair, the company isn’t saying this brand of cigarettes is safer, just that they are manufacturing them greener. The facilities are wind-powered, the farmers use fewer chemicals and 70% of its sales staff drive hybrid vehicles. And if you are worried about all that litter, don’t be. A sister company helps fund Keep America Beautiful. Our product makes a mess, but we pay someone to clean it up.
If you really like their product, you can sign up to receive a green birthday card from them. Just plant the card and wildflowers will grow. Sort of like pushing up daisies.