Everyone knows the dark and dangerous side of the tobacco industry. The ill effects of cigarettes on the health of smokers, non-smokers, and the environment are well established. So is it fair or ethical for such a heinous and disgusting product to promote eco-friendly improvements to its packaging?
This is precisely what has happened recently with one of Canada’s leading cigarette brands, du Maurier. Du Maurier is using a more sustainable grade of paper for the outer cardboard packaging and they have removed the traditional inside foil liners with ones made of paper. To promote these green initiatives, du Maurier invested in a full-page color advertisement in a major Canadian magazine.
While it seems laughable that a tobacco company would be trying to paint itself with a shade of green, does this constitute greenwashing?
Gideon Forman of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment said: “Is it green washing? Yes.” According to the ‘Seven Sins of Greenwashing’, the closest sin that du Maurier might be guilty of is the Sin of Lesser of Two Evils. This is where an environmental claim makes consumers feel ‘green’ about a product that is lacking in environmental benefits.
Obviously cigarettes are lacking in environmental benefits. But was the intent of the advertisement to trick people into thinking they were improving the environment by smoking du Maurier cigarettes? Doubtful. My guess is that they are trying to convince existing smokers to try their brand because of their green actions, basically saying ‘if you are going to partake in this senseless habit you might as well use one with green packaging’. Maybe they did some research and found there are enough smokers out there with an environmental conscience to warrant this advertisement.
If they truly are just promoting their recent green packaging without trying to pass off cigarettes as a green product, the greenwashing angle might be unfounded. Yet all of these issues may soon become irrelevant, as wheels are in motion to close the Canadian tobacco advertising loophole that allows ads like this to continue to be published.
Image: SuperFantastic at flickr under a CC License
Stephen Boles is co-founder of Kuzuka, a marketplace website that brings a new level of convenience and confidence to carbon offset customers and provide consulting services to organizations that want to assess and reduce their carbon footprint.