Sunday, August 03, 2008

Git Offa Mah Yard! part x

My girlfriend thinks I should start a blog called Get Off of My Yard! that features rants the likes of which might be delivered by an angry old man, shaking his fist at the neighborhood children, worrying his two remaining teeth with his yellowed old tongue. Apparently, I sometimes embody this character as I fulminate regarding pop culture, advertising, politics, music, education, the driving habits of Arizonans, etc.

So perhaps instead of launching a whole new blog, I'll just occasionally rant right here, in a charming series called, of course, Git Offa My etc.

Enough with the BS already! But where to begin?

How 'bout with an inspiring little card inserted between plastic wrapper and kale-green cigarette pack brought to us by the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, manufacturers of Natural American Spirit cigarettes. I smoke roughly a pack a day of their admittedly high quality menthols. The menthol flavoring, by the way, comes from mentholated crystals embedded in the filter, maintaining the virginal purity of their tobacco. These are fine, tasty, high-powered smokes, my friends. I felt not a twinge of guilt as Cecil Taylor bummed them off of me, one after the other, during a post concert party in his hotel room in Albuquerque. My pals, who are non-smokers generally, cadge a smoke or two off me without remorse, savoring the "100% Additive-Free Natural Tobacco." A friend who writes screenplays and directs movies calls them "Pimp Daddy Smokes," combining the somewhat shady sleaze of menthol with a kick of nicotine and carbon monoxide mule-like in its oxygen denying ferocity.

But the company's greenwashing is ridiculous.

Text of inspiring inserted card, front:

Bold heading: DIFFERENT Company

"It's refreshing to know a company that produces a product we use actively supports human rights, the environment, and other charitable works."-Scott W.

Never mind the Oxford comma.

Further inspiration on inserted card, back:

"Our people...We believe that the way we do business is as important as the way we grow our tobacco. That's why being earth-friendly is a part of our everyday lives. Whether it's using wind power to run our offices, or contracting directly with organic farmers who grow tobacco using earth-friendly practices, we're dedicated to reducing our footprint on the earth." (followed by the company's logo, featuring an altered zia...symbolism is heavy all around, including an Indian in a full head dress holding up a peace pipe and a handy little gold Thunderbird printed on every fag).

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for reducing footprints on the earth.

But it's the epitome of balls for a tobacco company to jump so hard on the green bandwagon, really. Hey, I have an idea-- maybe my respirator someday can be wind powered? Or perhaps half my lower jaw can be removed using entirely *earth-friendly* recycled bone saws? Or perhaps the radioactive elements used in my lung therapy can be obtained from direct contracts with organic, *earth-friendly* mining companies?

Some small print on the side of the pack seems perhaps too little, too late. Or maybe just so utterly obvious as to be unintentionally hilarious: "No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette."

The stub Wiki article is highly revealing:

"The Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company is a tobacco manufacturer, best known for its production of the Natural American Spirit cigarette brand. However, "Natural American Spirit" brand cigarettes are currently owned by (since 2002) the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, Inc. There is controversy surrounding this brand, both for its use of a 'native American' logo (citation needed), and for its claims to be natural, which many consumers misconstrue as meaning that the product is healthier for you."

I'm fully prepared, obviously, to admit that the only SAFE cigarette is an unlit cigarette. I'm also sheepishly ashamed to have such deep brand loyalty to a company that has obviously gone completely off the deep end of boomer, yuppie PC marketing nonsense.

And so, with gravelly voice and at a nicotine-ratcheted fever pitch, I crow to the marketing department at RJ Reynolds/Santa Fe Natural Tobacco: Git Offah Mah Yard!


the unreliable narrator said...

"Apparently I sometimes embody this character"...?

Gimme a Break! (That'll be the name of my new cranky blog series...when/if, that is, I ever have a blog again.)

Can't wait for the next installment...this should be a segment on This American Life!

PS: I think you mean Plains Indian....

Patrick Lewis said...

In the early 90's my cousin, Dirk Hermann, a VP at R.J. Reynolds, started up the Moonlight Tobacco Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of The RJR Tobacco Co. Their goal was to offer a micro-brewed beer version of a smoke ultimately meant to compete with American Spirits. One of their brands was Bee's Honey-toasted tobacco. Mirco brewed smokes??? Give me a break.

liannaa said...

I know I'm late joining the party here, but I just have to say: I like the Oxford comma. Ha!

Jason said...

I found your blog and this entry after searching Google for: "American Spirits Cigarette Controversy" after hearing about some issue that the American Medical Association had with a movie titled, "He's Just Not That In To You" because they display a close up of a bright yellow carton of American Spirits lights.

I too by the way am a total American Spirits loyalist. So much so that besides faithfully smoking them for over a decade, I have also been pushing them on my friends who smoke for the last seven years!

I mean I even remember how stoked I was one night while watching the Dave Chappelle Show I noticed that Dave was a fellow NAS smoker! Hell I remember when I was out front at Logan Airport in Boston getting in one last smoke before leaving. I was sitting on a bench reading a newspaper and because I was chain smoking I had left my bright blue box of American Spirits sitting out next to me. The next thing I know, this girl in her young 20s comes walking up holding her hand up in the air and proudly announced, "HIGH FIVE!? American Spirit smoker? Then you're fine in my book." I know that story sounds corny as hell, but it's just proof that most NAS smokers were proud of being an alternative smoker who are completely comfortable going up to a total stranger and discussing a brand of smokes.

To wrap up my "comment", prior to reading your blog, I had NO IDEA that NAS's were owned by Reynolds American! I must proudly share that one of the main reasons why I started smoking Am.Spirits was because they weren't owned by some gigantic corporation hell bent on doing whatever it took to make money.

Now while I am not some bleeding heart hippie, I am a proud native Pacific-Northwesterner (a Portlander to be exact) and I have always felt that NAS catered to many of the values that come along with growing up in Portland, Oregon.

Wow, I'm getting way off point here, I guess my problem is after all this time, I have to change smokes I guess. I really don't want to give anymore of my hard earned cash to Reynolds American. What really pisses me off is all the same things that you rant about in your latest post. After all this patting-on-the-back that NAS has been doing and slipping in inserts talking about small farmers and the environment blah blah be owned by RA, they're just full of total shit! BLAH!

Anyways, thanks for the taking the time to read this comment. I know it's hard to! Love the blog, hope you don't mind if I add to my list of blogs that I follow on mine I'm not what anyone would call a good writer, and I don't always have much time to write, so take it for what it is.

the unreliable narrator said...

Hey Jason—el Pedro is away for a week in the desert with his cactus friends, but I wanted to let you know: Yeah, he's two months smoke free now. His physical cravings were unexpectedly difficult, stochastically so—i.e. non-linear, i.e. better one day and then worse then next. We put this down to the heinously addictive properties of AS menthols. I'm sure he'll have more to say when he returns; just wanted to update you in the meantime. :o)