In a sign of the times, but still a funny headline nonetheless, Vuse Vapor parent company RJ Reynolds has finally banned smoking in their offices. That’s right, there are still companies out there that allow smoking in their offices, and those would be tobacco companies.
Altria, the biggest tobacco company in the US (RJ Reynolds is number two), actually still does allow for smoking in separate offices. Although smoking is banned on factory floors, elevators, and hallways at Altria, we still get this image in our heads of the whole place looking like an episode of Mad Men.
As comical as the situation can be, it does make sense that you could use the products you produce at your job, at your job. It’s not like anyone would fault anyone at the Mars offices for eating a snickers bar in the office, right? Well, of course cigarettes are different than candy bars and they do make a special case.
Cigarettes are well documented to inspire a whole host of diseases in the human body and have thus been banned from being used indoors in most places for well over a decade. It’s not the nicotine in cigarettes rather it is the combustion and tobacco additives that lead to a deadly mixture of chemical nightmares.
So even if you work at RJ Reynolds or Altria, there is still a strange aspect to the fact that you can light up indoors. It is just too taboo at this point to seem normal, especially with the huge concern of secondhand smoke that hovers above us.
Smoking At The Office
Obviously RJ Reynolds sees some of the humor in this, because they would have to live in a complete culture bubble not to.
David Howard, a spokesman for the tobacco giant confirmed as much, saying “We’re well aware that there will be folks who see this as an irony, but we believe it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.” Well, David, we aren’t sure if this is the right time or well overdue, that part is subjective, but it is good to hear nonetheless.
Now that RJ Reynolds has rolled out VuseVapor nationally, we would hope they are offering up some free product for the smokers that do work in their office. That would fit in with the mantra of their CEO Susan Cameron, who has already made the switch away from traditional tobacco cigarettes and to electronic cigarettes.
So as we can see, this is part of an ongoing culture change in the tobacco industry. RJ Reynolds has RJ Vapor and Altria has NuMark (along with purchasing Green Smoke earlier this year) to lead their role in the evapor business. The sense is that they are doing more than paying lip service to the ecigarette sections of their business.
A smoking ban in the office reinforces that belief and hopefully it will create a better working environment, but more than that is what is says regarding this transition. We imagine it isn’t easy for big tobacco to come to terms with the fact that their business is inevitably going to be in decline.
For now they are keeping their profits up, but people are smoking less and products like electronic cigarettes offer real opportunities for smokers looking to make the switch. This is a primary reason that RJ Reynolds and Altria jumped into the e-cig market and now those lessons may be extending into their workplace behavior as well.
All of this needs to be taken with the right perspective, realizing that in just a few short years Big Tobacco has been forced to look at a new product that is shaking up their industry. RJ Reynolds was founded way back in 1875 and they had over a century of unrestrained cigarette sales to build up their enormous company.
Altria did the same, and both only began to slow down in the late 70s when the lawsuits poured in and restrictions on advertising began. This must be a difficult pill to swallow for them, even as they try to take it in stride and see new opportunities for Vuse and MarkTen.
A smoking ban in the offices of RJ Reynolds would have seemed ironic even a decade ago, and it would have seemed downright silly before that. Now it feels like the time has come, for big tobacco to make a change, but importantly for electronic cigarettes to force a cultural change that America has been searching for for a very long time.