Reynolds American – Blowing Smoke at Workers and Consumers
The nation’s second largest cigarette manufacturer, Reynolds American, has been the target of campaigns by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and Tobacco Free Kids.
FLOC alleges that Reynolds American has done too little to protect workers who harvest tobacco from abuses including inadequate housing, poverty wages and unhealthy working conditions. Many tobacco pickers suffer from Green Tobacco Sickness, which results from high levels of nicotine being absorbed directly through the skin.
Tobacco Free Kids has an on-going campaign challenging Reynolds’ Sante Fe Natural Tobacco Company subsidiary over its eco-friendly ads for its Natural American Spirit brand. In 2010, the company entered an agreement with attorneys general from 33 states and the District of Columbia under which Natural American Spirit cigarettes are now labeled “Organic tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette.”
Reynolds American recently announced that it will cut its workforce by 10 percent by the end of 2014. It eliminated 570 jobs in 2008.
Cigarette sales at Reynolds declined 5 percent in 2011, more than competitors. Though the maker of Camel, Pall Mall, and Winston cigarettes saw its profits rise just 7 percent last year, CEO Daniel Delen saw his compensation rise 38 percent to $8.5 million.
Scott Klinger is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.