Feb. 25 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – Reynolds American Inc. has launched a campaign, including a new web site by its R.J. Reynolds subsidiary, claiming it is a changed company that is "transforming" tobacco. But the tobacco giant’s actions don’t show change, but more of the same.
Rather than changing, Reynolds continues to market its products to kids, mislead the public about the health risks of its products and fight proven strategies that prevent kids from smoking and reduce the death and disease caused by its products. Far from being part of the solution, Reynolds remains a main cause of the tobacco epidemic, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and kills more than 400,000 Americans every year.
Consider the facts:
We have a little mantra inside of the company that we use, which we call the 80-90-90… We spend about 80 percent of our resources in the combustible space. The combustible space is still 80 percent, 80-plus percent of our operating income. We spend the majority of our resources still in the combustible space. 90 percent of the organizational focus, the human resources inside the company, are actually focused on the combustible space. And despite a lot of these new innovations that you see coming out, 90 percent of our R&D budgets are actually directed at the combustible category…. That is the category that's still going to deliver a lot of growth into the future…
Reynolds’ "harm reduction" strategy isn’t new and it isn’t real. Tobacco companies have presented "harm reduction" as the alternative to quitting tobacco since before the first Surgeon General’s report on the deadly consequences of smoking 49 years ago. To keep smokers from quitting, the industry rolled out supposedly safer products such as filtered, "light" or "low-tar" cigarettes. And in the early 1980s, tobacco companies introduced sophisticated new smokeless tobacco products that they marketed as an innovative alternative to smoking. These products did nothing to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use. The result was more people using tobacco, especially children, and fewer people quitting. There is no reason to believe this time would be any different.
In 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler found R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies guilty of violating civil racketeering laws and engaging in a decades-long fraud to deceive the American people. Here’s what she wrote in her verdict:
[This case] is about an industry… that survives, and profits, from selling a highly addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system. Defendants have known many of these facts for at least 50 years or more. Despite that knowledge, they have consistently, repeatedly and with enormous skill and sophistication, denied these facts to the public, the Government, and to the public health community.
Is Reynolds truly transformed? The evidence clearly shows otherwise. The American people and their elected leaders should not be fooled again.