A World Without Marlboro?

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Altria juggernaut, the one that worked with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids to create the FDA regulation and its ban on characterizing flavors, except menthol and something called “tobacco flavor,” ultimately ended up by creating an FDA regulatory scheme that defined “tobacco flavor” so narrowly as to eliminate the vanilla, cocoa, licorice and other flavors that go into burley “toasting” and that were recently banned in Canada?  Now that the World Health Organization’s TobReg group is meeting this weekend in Jordan to lock down definitions of things like “tobacco flavor” as part of their work on Articles 9 and 10 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control wouldn’t it  be ironic if they came out against the American Blend cigarette?  Could it be that the success of Marlboro Lights as the kids’ cigarette of choice is due to the smoothness of an American Blend product?  What if the tobacco control world only wants harsh products on the market as the next stage in reducing tobacco consumption? Talk about Altria having opened up a pandora’s box.  No wonder they want the regulators to focus on flavored little cigars which are rarely if ever smoked by kids.


#1 Copenhagen Charlie on 10.19.09 at 12:42 AM

I saw this article the other day and realized the same thing that you’ve posted. I also agree with the misguided info that tells folks that underage kids buy little cigars. It just doesn’t happen. Altria is just misleading folks as they always do! Very interesting. We here in the States may not realize that many manufacturers in NY produce both Canadian blends and American blends of their brands which find there way into Canada. The American Blends are a favorite of many. Why? They taste so much better than the Canadian blends. I also am so annoyed that the anti tobacco movement just misleads people with so many lies. Their hypocrisy is so evident. As stated here the number one brand of underage smokers is Marlboro Lights not flavored cigarettes! Sounds good to say they banned the flavors but it’s just a way for these anti groups to claim victory and stay in the business of collecting money from the tobacco companies.

#2 Bill Godshall on 10.19.09 at 11:36 AM

Does anyone know the approximate percentage of cigarettes sold in the US that are considered “American Blend”?

The increasing amount of news stories criticizing flavored tobacco products and the incresing number of laws and legislation to ban flavored tobacco products are misleading the public (including tobacco users) to believe that non flavored tobacco products are less addictive and/or less hazardous than flavored tobacco products.

I suspect that sales of American Spirit cigarettes are increasing due to this massive misinformation campaign by anti tobacco extremists, and I suspect that more tobacco product will be marketed using “additive free”, “no harmful flavorings” themes.

#3 John Rolfe on 10.19.09 at 11:54 AM


American Blend cigarettes constitute 99%+ of the US market, though not all AB cigarettes are made the same: Natural American Spirit and Nat Sherman’s for example do use one variety of toasted burley but no top flavors so the definition of “natural” is a bit of misnomer much like “tobacco flavor.” As Copenhagen Charlie correctly notes above, the straight Virginia blend style popular in Canada and much of the rest of the world, uses only flue-cured tobacco and has a bite to it, something those accustomed to it like: they know they are smoking. In fact the original BAT 555 brand I am told used no casings at all…kind of like the harsh Chinese cigarettes though a smoother taste was possible due to the much more expensive types of tobacco blended. By getting rid of the AB, kids would be faced with some harsh choices, just as Altria would.

If the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids were concerned about kids they would go after Marlboro Lights, not work with the manufacturer to get rid of everything else…but Altria managed to hoodwink them and others in the tobacco control movement into looking in “all the wrong places.” You have to marvel at the results.

So what about requiring cigarettes to be harsh?

#4 Cowboy J on 10.19.09 at 5:47 PM

One day I just wish the world would wake up and realize how Philip Morris has just mislead the entire industry. Folks it’s no game. The apathy towards what is happening is just amazing. Hey I know that there is the issue of whether one should smoke or not smoke but what greatly bothers me is how so many retailers and distributors just bow down to the royal ….. at PM who is literally one step at a time dismantling the industry to their model of marketing. The industry especially retailers and wholesalers need to just stand up and say enough is enough! Banning flavors was such a ridiculous cause as it related to flavors. Kids didn’t smoke Djarum and Dreams. But PM really mislead the CTFK. Now I see kids are smoking little flavored cigars supposedly. Just ain’t true but of course who stands up to PM other than M Seigel or B Godshall? Now PM wants to see single cigars banned from the c-store channel. Hey retailer, Mr C-Store operator you hear that? Your friendly PM so called partner is worried about only one thing – how they protect their brands at the expense of your business and its profitability. Marlboro, folks is turning the corner and losing volume and share. Doesn’t that concern you. It does me! Makes me wonder how much more restrictive they will become. This is the truth and it concerns me as to how they will next approach my business. Ah they probably know my stores and I’ll hear about this on my next visit!

#5 John Rolfe on 10.19.09 at 6:01 PM

Nothing like the power of the purse. Whenever a wholesaler or retailer complains about this or that Altria strategy, I always return to the reality that they are simply doing what is good for their shareholders…or at least what they think will earn them profits. Only if the trade stops buying Marlboro will Altria then need to change its tune and I gather you Cowboy J are still buying Marlboro. So heads they win, tails the industry loses. Either way its profits for them. Can you really blame them?

#6 see store manager on 10.21.09 at 4:15 PM

Perhaps the market place will defeat Altria..3rd quarter results..smokes down 12%, smokeless down 4.5%. They can throw their money around for just so long. In addition, most of the profit they have been making this year has been the result of cost cutting.. i.e. UST sales force, and it shows up in erosion of market share.

#7 cig guy on 10.25.09 at 6:47 PM

As an fyi Altria announced a price over the weekend on cigarettes.

#8 jancascade on 10.31.09 at 2:50 PM

PM in its’ greed for market share will destroy the tobacco industry as no government tax or regulation possibly could.

Retailers and distributors are stupid to keep supporting a company that takes profit right off their bottom line. I tossed them years ago and will not sell any product that contributes a nickel to PM. You can be in business and do very well without PM.

#9 John Rolfe on 11.02.09 at 11:23 AM

I assume you are a retailer and that you have had no difficulty getting customers to switch to Camel or some other non-menthol premium brand, assuming they were looking for Marlboro Red or Lights. Have you had any customers walk out on you? What is your secret since so many retailers won’t take the chance and have become quite financially dependent on the Altria back-end programs? Are you carrying Black & Mild, Skoal and Copenhagen?

#10 jancascase on 11.03.09 at 1:22 AM

We made the decision after the MSA to not sell the products of the original signers. Many smaller companies are stuck paying for something they were not guitly of or a party to the settlement.

We sell only specialty and import cigarettes in our shop now. It bit at first, but people adjust, especailly when you educate them. Yes, they did try new products and many are still our regulars.

#11 nikky boy on 11.11.09 at 2:47 AM

i think the more restrictive pm gets and with more reductions in funding that many more retailers will say take a hike don’t need your crap

#12 jancascade on 11.11.09 at 3:22 AM

I read somewhere this week that PM sales are down and their investment in John Middleton was not one of their best moves, as it has not panned out.

PM sale down and that means less MSA payments to the states. This could get ugly.

Couldn’t happen to a better company and of course the greedy states. They may have killed the goose afterall.

#13 Jersey Boy on 11.20.09 at 7:51 PM

Yeah read that also. Seems like PM is good at messing up lately. I heard but can’t support they are getting out of the Snus business. Any thoughts anyone?

#14 jancascade on 11.20.09 at 11:55 PM

We are hearing rumor of a PM buyout of General Cigar for the US rights to distribute Swedish Snus. Keep in mind, the industry is rife with rumors.

If it is true, Swedish Snus is out of my shop, and possible the cigar brands too. Hell will freeze over before I sell anything than earns those creeps a nickel.

#15 Jersey Boy on 11.22.09 at 1:43 AM

Doesn’t Swedish Match market Catch and General? Or do they let General Cigar do that??

#16 Bill Godshall on 11.29.09 at 4:54 PM

Public health could benefit if PM bought the rights to sell Swedish Match snus products in the US (or if PM bought Swedish Match), as that would give PM a financial incentive to more aggressively advocate and promote tobacco harm reduction policies and products.

Then again, I’m still waiting for PM to more aggressively advocate and promote Skoal and Copenhagen to smokers as alternatives to cigarettes (since PM bought UST).

#17 John Rolfe on 11.30.09 at 12:52 PM

Swedish Match has a joint venture on snus with Lorillard. While I am not privy to the deal, I would not be surprised if Lorillard could be a spoiler here. Their Triumph snus is reportedly the best of the lot.

#18 Buckmaster on 11.30.09 at 9:16 PM

I actually think that Swedish Match’s General brand of Snus is the best!

#19 Pa C-Store Operator on 12.02.09 at 11:23 AM

Is it true that Pall Mall is taking smokers from the Marlboro brand? I was told this yesterday by a tobacco rep.

#20 Bill Godshall on 12.02.09 at 1:46 PM

Sales volume of Marlboro, Camel and Newport have declined this year (compared to last year) in the US, while sales volume of Pall Mall have increased. I believe Pall Mall is the only cigarette brand to increase sales volume, which is likely to due aggressive promotions and price discounts.

#21 Vapor Vixen on 12.03.09 at 3:20 AM

Actually I think Maverick from Lorillard is doing extremely well as well as some of LVB private label brands. Depending on your market place you will see other lesser low tier brands gaining traction. My thoughts are based on third qtr maxwell reporting.

#22 SDL on 03.31.10 at 9:49 PM

Pall Mall & Maverick are just buying share. Its been done before and is never sustained. Much to costly and as soon as the buy down goes away so do the sales.

#23 Anonymous on 04.01.10 at 10:39 AM

And there are still NPM’s out there with 4th tier brands and 4th tier pricing though this is likely to narrow as they absorb higher marginal costs due to FDA regulation.

As FDA considers the issue of package colors and trade dressing that are “similar descriptors” to “low tar,” “light” etc., what is tough to understand is why smaller manufacturers would not jump at the opportunity to make it more difficult for Philip Morris to sell Marlboro Red (full), Marlboro Gold (lights), Marlboro Silver (ultra-lights), and Marlboro Medium (less than regular but more than lights) when doing so would even the playing field, since they have little to lose and much to gain. Philip Morris has the most to lose if FDA were successful in banning colors given that their rooftop and colors are the most known to consumers.

#24 Copenhagen Charlie on 04.14.10 at 6:36 PM

Well if RAI is buying share(Pall Mall) their doing well with it but it’s a lot more than that SDL. Lot of other elements taking place that are contributing!

#25 JanCascade on 04.17.10 at 9:55 PM


One more reason to hate PM. I have to wonder if any of those suits have even set foot on a reservation? Most are the pits! Casino’s and tobacco sales allow them to take care of their members, provide health care and education and senior services.

PM wants to put them out of business so the suits can get bigger bonuses? That company needs to die a slow and painful death for their greed. I loathe them and everything they have done to the industry.

#26 Anonymous on 04.18.10 at 2:36 AM

What an interesting article by JanCascade! Pretty amazing! It’s so true!!! They did all that is proposed. PM had deals with the reservations.

#27 JanCascade on 04.18.10 at 6:59 PM

By pushing the PACT Act, PM is once again screwing their own clientele. Those who have found a web site willing to sell to them will now be held captive to their states excessive and punitive tax schemes too.

I hope PM suffers huge losses as even loyal Marlboro smokers downgrade to cheaper smokes because they can no longer afford to smoke the PM brands.

#28 outlet hanging on on 04.18.10 at 7:20 PM

well pm is losing significant volume as we speak
folks are looking for cheap cigarettes

#29 Jersey Boy on 04.19.10 at 11:23 PM

Been a while since I’ve been on this site. And gosh PM still up to it’s evil deception. Folks it’s pretty true! It’s a shame retailers just bend over and take it ……..

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