Marlboro Countries

When I worked in Moscow for a total of six years in the 1980s and 1990s, my office was a converted, two bedroom apartment with a small bathroom with a bathtub and a balcony that titled precipitously towards the nine-story drop. We crammed at least five people at any time in the news bureau of BusinessWeek where I was chief. My newspaper-reader and office manager was a KGB informant named Tanya with bobbed hair and penetrating Gypsy eyes. She smoked coarse, foul Russian cigarettes like a chimney. It made me sick, but to be honest, the work was so stressful that I resumed my habit, too.

Russians like Tanya are perfect market material for Philip Morris International. Russia is a hot market for the Swiss-based firm that until last year, was part of the now-Richmond-based Altria family. PMI has introduced new products to get more people around the world to smoke, such as “Marlboro Intense,” a shortie cigarette that you can puff through in fewer drags while you take a break outside from your non-smoking restaurant, “Marlboro Wides” which are Marlboro fatties, and “Marlboro Mix 9” a higher potency Marlboro. The product have been test marketed in Turkey, Portugal and Indonesia, respectively.

In Russia, 40 percent of all kids smoke by the time they are 18 and more than half of all men smoke. Smoking is one reason why Russia’s population has dropped by 6 million since the mid 1990s.

PMI is now free to pursue its global marketing initiatives without behind held back by the kinds of health lawsuits that have shackled its sister, Philip Morris USA, back in Richmond, which until this December made billions of cigarettes for the overseas market at the huge factory off I-95.

Neatly separated by new articles of incorporation, the two firms have different approaches. PM USA urges you not to use their products. PMI isn’t as supposedly health conscious and promotes like crazy. It does very well and an analyst calls PMIrecession resistant.” Its biggest markets are places like Russia and Ukraine and perhaps soon China through a JV with a Chinese firm.

That may be great for shareholders, but not so world health. The World Health Organization reports that a staggering one billion people may die of smoking-related illness inthe 21st century. That’s far more than the Bubonic Plague and World Wars I and II put together. The ill effects will be forced upon poorer nations not capable of meeting their existing health demands.

But hey, it’s profit and we Virginians love tobacco. Built the Commonwealth. Governments near and far shouldn’t be allowed to tell people what to do. Nossir. And, the very first act of our beloved General Assembly was to adopt price supports for tobacco back in the 17th century. Fighting malaria or dealing with Native Americans were second-fiddle to the Golden Leaf we all so worship.

For details on the global crisis, consult my story in Style Weekly:

Peter Galuszka

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5 responses to “Marlboro Countries”

  1. Insurance Avatar

    Just love your blog every time I read it, keep posts like this one coming!

  2. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Freedom means adults are free to make their own choices.

    We don’t vote for any W-whatever-O and they are not accountable to any voters.

    I do not smoke, but I respect the right of others to make their own decisions.

    I support Freedom and the need for government keeping their use of force and intimidation out of the personal lives of adults that should be free to make up their own minds what to do with their bodies.

  3. Larry G Avatar

    even if you have to pay for their health care after they get sick and need expensive care that they cannot afford?

    How about.. a two-dollar a pack tax that goes specifically for health care for those who will inevitably need it after smoking has ravaged their bodies?

    That’s the essential quandary.

    if you makes choices.. that end up costing a bunch of money.. should it be your responsibility?

  4. The only part of this blog that meant a thing to me is the next to last paragraph. Don’t you really love the fact that in order to fund the S-chip bill 16 million new smokers will have to pick up the habit. Ah yes, our government in action. What a bunch of damn fools they all are.

  5. Anonymous Avatar


    Good post!


    Good question!

    But you could go a lot farther toward a sound public policy vis a vis tobacco base on good science.


    You have had different experiences than most.

    I have never seen anyone smoke a cig inside their body so that it does not impact others directly.

    I have never seen the price of a pack of cigs reflect the true total cost of consuming the product. Common sense says if a product does potential damage to the consumer and the public the price should include the cost of insurance to cover all the externalities. That is what a market economy does.

    I have never seen a cig smoker grow their own leaf, make their own paper and roll thier own cigs. If that does not happen then buying a cig (even with insurance) is contributing to a criminal entrprise.

    Never having seen any of these events one must conclude that your “consulting adults” view is an insult to intelligence.

    In fact it is such an insult that you must be a communist who goes from site to site spewing foolishness to give conservatives a bad name.

    It will not work Reid, we conservatives are too smart for that. We recognize that we must balance rights with responsibilities or you commies will take over by default.

    True Conservative.

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