Smoking isn’t as socially acceptable as it once was. But while smoking is largely taboo in American culture these days, there is one exception: so-called natural cigarettes.
Brands like American Spirit have managed to avoid much of the negativity that has stained the industry due to the idea that the “additive-free” and organic cigarettes are somehow healthier. But are they?
Are Natural or Organic Cigarettes Any Healthier?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the answer is a big fat No. In fact, the agency sent a warning letter to both American Spirit and Winston in August of last year warning the companies to take steps to avoid making claims that their products are somehow healthier than other cigarettes.
“The FDA’s job is to ensure tobacco products are not marketed in a way that leads consumers to believe cigarettes with descriptors like ‘additive-free’ and ‘natural’ pose fewer health risks than other cigarettes, unless the claims have been scientifically supported,” Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a statement. “This action is a milestone, and a reminder of how we use the tools of science-based regulation to protect the U.S. public from the harmful effects of tobacco use.”
According to FDA, cigarette companies that make claims that their products contain fewer health risks need to submit evidence to the agency along with a “modified risk tobacco product (MRTP) application” to prove such claims are true.
Cigarettes for Hipsters
For its part, American Spirit, a New Mexico-based company that’s now owned by cigarette giant Reynolds American, has done a magnificent job marketing a product that now has the same status as Pabst Blue Ribbon amongst the smoking hipsters, models, and celebrities unwilling or unable to quit.
The company grew from a tiny start-up in the Southwest that sold to Indian reservations, into a company whose third quarter domestic sales reached $265 million this year. Today, the company holds 2.3 percent of the U.S. cigarette market share.
With an Indian chief smoking a peace pipe on the box along with the sentence “made with organic tobacco” and claims that it’s additive-free, you might actually think that these cigarettes aren’t that bad. But you’d be wrong.
“Cigarette smoking has been causing lung cancer and many other diseases since the early 1900s, long before the heavy use by the industry of cigarette additives,” said James Pankow, a professor of chemistry and engineering at Portland State University, reported in an article in Business Week.
The company has always directed its marketing efforts to those that already smoke claiming that it’s at least not as bad. But using natural cigarettes as a reason to keep smoking is nothing but smoke and mirrors. There, I said it.
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