Big tobacco’s local front

“I didn’t know that, but sticking it to the man makes this all the more sweet,” said Jerome Hicks, taking a long drag on a Dunhill cigarette. “I can say without guilt, if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.” — quoted by Charles Sheehan in the Trib, 19 January

The greedy zillionaires running multinational giant Reynolds American have apparently decided that harvesting $15.6 billion a year by slowly strangling millions of people to death isn’t enough. No, they’ve discovered a new twist on insidious evil: they’ve “gone local,” crouching behind a made-up brand name — Marshall & McGearty, who in real life are a corporate chemist and an ad-man, respectively — to create a corporate simulacrum of the idealized Ye Olde Tyme Corner-e Tobacconist-e Shoppe, hawking “custom blended” cancer sticks for $8 a pack.

“Reynolds, a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc., plans to test the idea and see how the brand does before potentially expanding the concept.” (AP/N&O)

And where is the test market for this cynical marketing ploy, the first place where gullible and stupid American consumers will be suckered into literally trading their lives for corporate marketing hoo-hah? Why, Wicker Park, of course. And in a fit of good timing, the lounge coincidentally opened just as the deal-with-it-later smoking ban passed the City Council, resulting in a shower of free publicity.

Bleaugh. Good thing that the many local demolitions have left behind big piles of spare bricks. C’mon, let’s welcome them like we welcomed Starbucks — a corporation, mind you, a third smaller than RJR (measured by annual revenues).

And oh, it turns out that RJR’s largest shareholder is British American Tobacco. Together, RJR and BAT (which merged their American operations in 2005) sold $70 billion in cigarettes in 2004, making BAT bigger than McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Nike, and the Gap combined.

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3 thoughts on “Big tobacco’s local front

  1. a draft Billionaire leaflet, naturally decorated with logos:

    Oh, what a cute little unique shop! That’s what we want you to think. Please, before you empty your healthy lungs into our filthy-rich bank accounts, consider the truth: “Marshall McGearty’s” is owned by Reynolds American, Inc., whose largest shareholder is British American Tobacco. Together, RAI and BAT will sell $1.3 million in cigarettes just in the time it takes to “hand roll” your “custom blended” MM cigarettes. That makes BAT bigger and richer than McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Nike, and the Gap combined! We Billionaires really love smokers — they pay us healthy profits, in sickness and in health! Love, Billionaires for Big Tobacco. P.S. If you’re wondering where we get our faboo cigars, there are two genuine locally-owned tobacconists just around the corner.

    and another:

    Billionaires [Heart] $mokers!!!!!
    Thank You For $$$moking!!!!!
    Hey Suckahs, We’re Rolling In Profit!!!!!

    Welcome to Marshal McGeerty’s Old-Tyme Tobacco Shoppe!!!!!

    We’re proud that *YOU* have helped us become the biggest, richest, most powerful, most successful multinational corporate chain store operating in Wicker Park. You see, we’re a proud (if stealthy) part of RJ Reynolds/British American Tobacco, a corporation bigger than McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Nike, the Gap, and Starbucks combined.

    In fact, just in the time it takes for us to hand-roll your “custom blended cigarettes,” we’ll make $1,300,000 selling cancer sticks in 180 countries! We’re rolllling in profit, thanks to suckers like you! Har har!

    So c’mon, help us take over the world, one diseased body at a time. Keep emptying your healthy lungs into our bank accounts. Spend more money on our overpriced cigarettes and help make our filthy rich executives proud. Don’t waste your money at loser local businesses, whose owners do silly things like supporting neighborhood artists. Where’s the greed in that? No, spend more money here, so that we billionaire executives can buy what we need: more yachts, more mansions, more whips and pesticides for our Third World plantations, and more political favors from our friends George W. Bush and Tom DeLay.*

    Thanks again! from the Billionaires for Big Tobacco. Smokers like you pay us billionaires *healthy* profits, in sickness and in health!!!!!

    Note. We gave Republicans millions of dollars in 2000, and we won! Go team! We love Tom DeLay so much, we fly him to his various court dates aboard our corporate jets! Texas Republicans are the best!

    also, some links from around this here blogosphere:
    * “I think that RJR, if they want to promote cancer, they need to make certain that the store is branded properly. The Cancer Lounge. ‘Relax, have a cup of coffee, while we coat your lungs with tar and nicotine.’ ” — Joel Warady

    * “The idea of these 20-something fashion victims standing around some smoky lounge waiting for some choad to roll cigarettes for them would be hilarious and rich with schadenfreude if it weren’t so sad, and if it didn’t bring back memories of my own smoking days. I rolled my own cigarettes for years—Roll Rich, Drum—but it didn’t make me feel cool; it made me feel like I was in jail.” — Rob Horning

    * “Clinging for it its own life at the expense of the lives of others whom it feels should perceive smoking as a glamorous activity rather than the killer it is… McGearty and the other pompous soul who’s [sic] name is on the brand, RJR stench guru Jerry Marshal cooked up the idea several years ago realizing many other categories of social vices had high end brands that were successful and figured why should cigarettes be left out of that game.” — Adrants

    Also, it turns out that when Tom DeLay needs to bum a ride to his arraignment, RJ Reynolds is happy to give him a lift — aboard the corporate jet.

  2. Posted elsewhere re: statewide smoking ban.

    I’m glad that the statewide law fills in many of the Chicago law’s egregious gaps, though. Some of the neighborhood hipsters blamed the smoking ban for doing in one popular neighborhood coffeeshops, since customers went down the street to a new “smoking lounge” which conveniently sold below-cost coffee and food. Those same customers probably wouldn’t be caught dead in the Starbucks across the street — but there they were, killing themselves softly by the hand of RJR, a vile company that does as much business in a month as Sbux does all year. Argh. (Of course, we all know that it was ultimately the even-bigger bank that did in the coffeeshop — with the candlestick, in the billiard room!)

    The new smoking ban bans even rudimentary foodservice from tobacco shops, so that particular gig is up.

  3. UPDATE: Victory!!!

    “Didn’t work,” says [Mark Smith, Vice President of Communications at Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc.] He went on to say that in light of legislation being passed here and in practically all other major cities, Reynolds American Inc. has no plans to open similar lounges in the future. “Right now we’re concentrating on distribution in retail markets,” Smith says.

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