Oct. 23 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – By announcing restrictions on smoking in its facilities, Reynolds American seems to finally be admitting that secondhand smoke harms health after publicly denying it for decades. However, by allowing designated smoking areas, the company’s new policy is severely flawed and fails to provide effective protection from secondhand smoke and the lung cancer and heart disease it causes. As the U.S. Surgeon General and other public health authorities have found, only comprehensive smoke-free policies provide effective protection from secondhand smoke. Designated smoking areas fail to do so, as secondhand smoke does not stay in such areas.
If it is serious about protecting workers from secondhand smoke, Reynolds should make its workplaces completely smoke-free and stop fighting smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public places.
Reynolds’ announcement is about public relations, not public health. It is part of the company’s ongoing effort to present itself as part of the solution to the tobacco problem when in fact it remains the main cause of the problem. Reynolds has also been promoting its so-called “youth tobacco prevention” program despite the conclusions of a federal judge and public health authorities that such tobacco industry programs are ineffective and may even encourage kids to smoke. And Reynolds claims to be committed to “harm reduction” despite the lack of evidence that any of its products actually help to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use.
Far from being a responsible company, Reynolds continues to market its products to kids and fight proven strategies that reduce tobacco use.Reynolds today sells the third most popular cigarette brand among kids (Camel) and by far the most popular smokeless tobacco brand among kids (Grizzly). If its proposed merger with Lorillard is approved, it will gain the second most popular cigarette brand among kids (Newport). Reynolds continues to market its products in magazines that have large youth readership and with discounting schemes that make its products more affordable and appealing to price-sensitive kids.
It’s important to remember that Reynolds is one of the tobacco companies that a federal judge in 2006 found have violated civil racketeering laws by perpetuating a decades-long fraud on the American people. As U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler concluded, “Defendants have marketed and sold their lethal products with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.” Importantly, Judge Kessler found that this unlawful conduct is ongoing.
Has Reynolds changed? The evidence shows otherwise. The American public and elected officials should not be fooled.