The New Newports Are Coming

A new brand of Newport cigarettes is about to be released by Reynolds American. They’re called Newport Platinum. Little is known about Newport Platiniums at this time. Speculation on Reddit is that they are going to be an ultra light version of Newport, Reynolds’ popular menthol cigarette.

I noticed Reynolds’ teaser campaign for its new Newports the other day while I was in line at a local gas station. I’ve made a point to stop at a couple other local gas stations and confirmed that they have the same Newport Platinum marketing.

An empty row of cigarettes sits behind the counter at eye level, with the promise that Newport Platinums are coming soon. Seeing this new ad campaign from Reynolds reminded me of Reynolds’ first cigarette ad campaign over a hundred years ago. Their famous “Camels are coming” campaign that introduced America to the cigarette that is still associated with Winston-Salem.

Here is the L.A. Times’ description of Reynolds’ innovative 1913 ad campaign:

The success of the brand is traceable partly to marketing genius. N.W. Ayer & Son was the agency hired to handle the launch, which began with a teaser campaign. Newspapers nationwide announced “the Camels are coming,” with no hint that the blitz was for a new brand of cigarettes. (Reynolds had not even sold cigarettes before 1912.) One ad crowed that “Tomorrow there’ll be more CAMELS in this town than in all Asia and Africa combined!”

In 2017 there is nothing revolutionary about Reynolds’ rollout of its latest type of Newports. But it is an example of the continuity and change at Reynolds American. Continuity because they’re using the same marketing tricks that they’ve used for decades. But Reynolds has changed. They acquired Lorillard in 2014-2015, which has been referred to as “the Newport acquisition.” Now Reynolds, which has been controlled by BAT (British American Tobacco) since 2004 is about to be bought out by BAT.

Reynolds has gone through a lot of changes since the 1980s. The 1988 leveraged buyout of RJR-Nabisco is something that Reynolds’ never really recovered from. All that debt crippled Reynolds. It required them to sell off their international brands and ultimately enter into a 2004 partnership with BAT that is about to become a buyout.

Newports are the big prize that BAT is getting from Reynolds, along with Reynolds’ Camel brand of cigarettes. It’s a shame that Reynolds or any other tobacco company is able to shamelessly market cigarettes. After all, cigarettes are the most deadly consumer product ever invented.

Big Tobacco continues to use Newports to attract Black consumers like Lorillard has done for decades. It’s part of a terrible trend, relatively well-off consumers have quit tobacco, but smokers that are poor or Black (or both) are having a difficult time quitting smoking.

In the 1990s an R.J.R. Tobacco executive was reportedly said that it was “the poor, the young, the black and the stupid” who continue to smoke. Due to relentless marketing and increasingly high nicotine contents in cigarettes, not to mention difficult socioeconomic conditions-that’s who continues to smoke.

For many, declining smoking rates are a sign that smoking is an issue we have solved. That’s hardly the case. Cigarette smoking continues to be a leading killer here in this country and abroad. The question is, how long are we going to continue to allow Big Tobacco to make their profits off the most vulnerable among us?

We should consider the harsh measures that Europe and Australia are taking against Big Tobacco. Plain packaging and the ban of menthol cigarettes are some things that we should be debating here in America.

For more on this topic read the Washington Post’s excellent article on Big Tobacco and the poor.





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