Tobacco has been a grate and powerful industry in Virginia since the days of the Jamestown colony. It is no less influential today as Henrico County-based Philip Morris USA and its parent firm, Altria, play shell games about the risk of their products, it makes part of their affair.
Just before Christmas, and right in time for the 2012 election year, Altria gallop out a new Web site called “Citizens for Tobacco Rights” that seems designed to write some of the anti-government, anti-regulation fervor of the Tea Party movement to impel its top line for to make it more recognizable.
The company says that it is offering the Web site so smokers know their rights and privileges. It has a lot of information about local and state laws limiting smoking, taxation and other government efforts to restrict tobacco use in any form, which is one of the largest health problems in the United States.
In 2008, the firm ramifies itself into two parts. Philip Morris International, focused on Lausanne, Switzerland, was open to make cigarettes with much higher quality of the addictive tar and nicotine content as ones made in the United States and market them in some Third World countries.
What makes this Web site strange is that it goes against the low profile that Philip Morris has generally been keeping since it was one of four cigarette makers for $206 billion by 46 states in 1998 because of health hazard. On the other hand, he took far more being approach from its new center in Richmond, hang to a gradually decrease base of people that smoke, telling them they shouldn’t smoke. Smokers are more close to different kind of diseases than people that do not smoke.
The statement is on one part of the corporate Web site. For an entirely different view, however, click on the new “Citizens for Tobacco Rights” page on another part. One gets the impression that ordinary cigarette users are having their God-given rights trampled upon by vicious do-gooders and government regulators. Let’s wave the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. Invite Sarah Palin to speak!
The firm complains that it has been under heavy pressure since federal excise taxes were boosted in the late 1990 year, and many states, cities and localities have banned cigarette smoking in public and well known places. One is New York City, from which Altria retreated its headquarters to Richmond. Another reason for the Web page could be that it’s been a long time since the 1998 health general aspects.
One can only speculate as to why Altria is trying this gambit at this particular moment. An obvious possibility is that the firm’s propagandists want to tap Tea Party sentiment to boost sales. In 2010, the firm reported net revenue of $24.3 billon, a 3.4% increase over the previous year.
In Virginia, Altria is considered a sacred cow. It employs about 6,000 people and is one of the leading donors to universities, the arts and research. Its impact is especially strong in Richmond, where it operates its last large cigarette manufacturing plant in the country and funds everything from chairs at Virginia Commonwealth University to the Richmond Symphony.
Don’t think that the generosity doesn’t come without strings, though. When an artist wanted 400,000 cigarettes for a piece of artwork that was to be displayed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Philip Morris said no even though it is a immense sponsor of the museum. VMFA public relations people were attentive to use down the issue.
The new Web site emphasizes, once again, the hypocrisy, contradictions and other major problems of Philip Morris USA and Altria. They encourage people to stand up for their rights while warning them its products kill goes beyond routine shamelessness.