Smokers rejoice. There is a new, healthier way to smoke, all thanks to the innovators at Altria (formerly known as Philip Morris). Marlboro has just released Smoke Rites, a new line of health conscious products for modern people with active lifestyles.
The concept was borne over two years of intense research at Marlboro laboratories. Head researcher Dr. Dylan Pantzenfahr explains, “Curing lung cancer is one of Marlboro’s top priorities. And while we can’t change the nature of [tobacco], we can change the way people smoke it.” Pantzenfahr is referring to serving size. To date there is no standard serving size for cigarette consumption. “It’s a tricky question,” says Pantzenfahr, “A man with massive lungs may consume a much larger serving of cigarettes than, say, a tiny person.” Nevertheless, in early 2007 Pantzenfahr and his team of specialists made it their one mission to answer the serving size question.
Early tests failed. The group ran into several technical and legal obstacles. Julie Lawson, the team’s resident psychiatrist, palms her face when discussing the initial trials. “It was the wild west. No one had a clue what a serving of cigarettes looked like. We had monkeys smoking cigarettes, men smoking catfood, women using corn cob pipes. Eight cigs, twelve cigs, we had to cut the 200-cigs-per-day experiment short because too many subjects were losing feeling in their limbs.” Julie shakes her head, “We didn’t learn what a serving was, but we learned if you smoke more than 200 cigarettes per day your urine turns black.”
But the smoke team didn’t quit. 420 million dollars and 18 months later Pantzenfahr made a discovery. “The serving size was still eluding us, but we found something amazing in the data.” One of the experiments compared people who smoked as much as they wanted each day with people who only smoked six cigarettes a day. Over 30 people were tested, and the results showed a 14% lower chance of lung cancer in the people who smoked just 6 cigarettes. The message was clear, smoking 6 cigarettes reduces your risk of cancer. Pantzenfahr’s eyes light up when he remembers the day he made the connection, “I double checked the findings, I turned to my research assistant and told her we’d just stumbled upon a way to cure cancer through smoking.”
Marlboro’s CEO, Jeff Skinling, was skeptical. “I didn’t want to throw another half billion dollars into a scientific hunch. I had them run a double blind study. Then a triple blind, then a quadruple blind study before deciding we were blind enough to move forward.”
When Skinling moves forward, he moves fast. Within months Marlboro created the Smoke Rite brand, produced a commercial, designed the packaging, and even built a bio-green-environment-safe production facility. “Now people know they are being healthy and environmentally chic when they smoke,” says Marlboro customer sensitivity chief Nancy McKerberster.
The Smoke Rites are scheduled to hit gas stations and grocery stores within the month. Smokers will now have the option to buy a traditional 20-cigarette pack, or a Smart Carton of Smoke Rites. Each Smart Carton contains 12 small 6-cigarette Smoke Rite packs. Additionally, some regions will have the option to buy Smart Carton Plusses which will include a bonus seventh cigarette in each 6-cigarette pack.
“This is just the beginning,” says Josh Glott, co-vice executive head of development and strategic marketing productivity at Marlboro, “Beyond the commercials and the promo spots on morning shows, our next batch of Smoke Rites will promote even further awareness of smoking health as we plan on including heart, check mark, and jogger silhouette icons on each pack. We’re even planning future Smoke Rites to be sold in a pack shaped like a healthy lung.” Glott holds up a magazine ad and smiles. The ad shows a mom in a sports bra holding a heart-shaped bowl filled with cigarettes.
But not everyone approves of the healthy cigarettes. Grace Null heads a privately funded interest group dedicated to speaking out against the re-packaging. “You think people are really going to smoke just 6 cigarettes a day? No sir, people will end up smoking that entire Smart Carton.” Null cites a study to back up her claim. But Pantzenfahr is quick to reply, “Her claim is true, but only for people who don’t have control over their smoking habits. For people who are in control, the Smoke Rites are the healthiest choice.”
The company’s strategy of product miniaturization is spreading to other health conscious corporations such as Jagermeister. “Alcohol is a powerful disinfectant,” says Jagermeister corporate researchologist Joe Bellows, “Studies show males between the ages of 28 and 55 need extra disinfecting at the end of a work day. Jagermeister Disinfectaboosters are a healthy way to disinfect your liver. And because of their small size, they’re fine to drink before driving home.” Bellows is boastful of his company’s new stance, though he admits Jagermeister is not the first to do so, citing Michelob Ultra’s movement to inform the public of the important role beer plays in exercise and fitness.
Uzi has also joined the bandwagon, taking the first groundbreaking steps toward pistols and sub-machine guns that load “Smartables” two bullet magazines instead of the more dangerous fourteen bullet magazines. A safer gun for safer crimes.
Jeff Skinling doesn’t seem concerned with all the corporate piggybacking. “The smaller pack thing is just the tip of the iceberg in our new campaign for health. Just wait till you wrap your lips around our Vitacigs.” Skinling is referring to an upcoming project that will inject vitamins and minerals into packs of Marlboro Smoke Rites. Each Smoke Rite pack would contain up to 15% of the recommended daily allowance of niacin. “Smoke 7 packs a day, and you’re over 100%!” claims Skinling. Niacin is also known as vitamin B3. Outside of Smoke Rite Vitapacks, niacin can only be found in meat, vegetables, nuts, fruits, dairy products, and grains.
While it may be years before the negative and slanderous term “cancer sticks” fades from American lexicon, Pantzenfahr is hopeful that his research along with the new repackaging and re-labeling will finally sway the public to see Marlboro cigarettes for what they really are: immunity sticks. And as for current public opinion? “I don’t need to be able to pronounce the name of every single ingredient on every label of every product I buy,” says one American consumer, “I just need to know if I am being healthy when I put it in my mouth or when I give it to my children.”
What do you think of Marlboro’s latest escapade? Share your thoughts on corporate spin, food product marketing and “Smoke Rites” in the comment board!