September 19, 2007 —
American Spirit tobacco products pose difficult ethical challenges. The products, made by the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, are made of organic and natural tobacco and do not contain many of the harmful chemicals of other brands. The fact that American Spirit contains organic tobacco means that many smokers who use American Spirit products claim that the cigarettes are safer and better for smokers than the usual commercially available cigarettes. But is it true or even desirable?
Santa Fe itself does not make such claims, but some smokers believe that switching from some brands—such as Camel or Marlboro—to an organic cigarette will actually be a ‘healthy’ decision. American Spirit, the only U.S. brand made of “100% certified organic tobacco,” clearly states on its homepage: “No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette.” And though American Spirit contains links to sites that may help a smoker quit, the company is still pedaling a carcinogenic product—even though it uses organic products.
According to the American Cancer Society, 60 of the 4,000 or so chemicals in cigarette smoke are linked to cancer. In 2001, PETA and other animal activists applauded American Spirit for becoming the first-ever cruelty-free cigarette in the U.S. as the first company to refuse to fund any smoking tests on animals.
Some critics also question the use by American Spirit of a Native American on its packaging, especially considering that the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company states that it “is not an American Indian enterprise, nor are we affiliated with any American Indian groups.” Rather, American Spirit products are “based on our belief in the traditional American Indian usage of tobacco—in moderation and in its natural state.” The makers of American Spirit, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, is owned by R.J. Reynolds, the world’s second largest tobacco company (behind Philip Morris), which also owns Camel, Winston, Salem, Kool, Pall Mall, other cigarette brands. Santa Fe operates as a wholly owned, independent subsidiary of RJR.