The Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, maker of the niche brand "American Spirit" cigarettes, is trying to lure environmentally conscious smokers with certified organic, pesticide-free tobacco. Santa Fe, which markets itself as an "earth friendly" and "socially progressive" tobacco company, is actually owned by R.J. Reynolds (now Reynolds American), maker of the mainstream brands Camel and Winston. Santa Fe does not indicate its relationship with RJR anywhere on American Spirit's packaging or in its advertisements. The use of the word "natural," the Native American on its logo, and marketing of its tobacco as "pesticide free" and grown using sustainable farming practices have all helped mislead consumers that American Spirit cigarettes are safer than others. Because it is an independent subsidiary of RJR, Santa Fe can also elude decisions made by its parent company. For example, last November, RJR announced it was going to stop advertising its brands in newspapers and magazines, but Santa Fe continued advertising in periodicals. In 1994, Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro, also targeting hip, environmentally-conscious smokers with a fake "micro-brew" cigarette brand called Dave's, but when people found out the brand was really owned by Philip Morris, it disappeared.
By Anne Landman on January 16, 2009