The world nearly overdosed on irony yesterday.
The Reynolds American tobacco company announced that it will pay $44 million to buy up Niconovum, a Swedish company that makes nicotine gum and other products that help smokers quit.
Reynolds owns several prominent cigarette brands including Camel and Pall Mall. So why does a large cigarette company want to buy an organization whose sole purpose is to stop people from smoking cigarettes?
Reynolds’ CEO said the acquisition "extends the harm-reduction strategies RAI and its operating companies have been developing over the past several years," according to ABC.
But this sounds a little fishy to us. It’s even stranger than when the founder of Papa John’s pizza urged customers to buy fewer slices and stop eating whole pies.
We can speculate a few possible motives here. Perhaps the idea is that this partnership could improve Reynolds’ publicity down the road (once journalists stop scratching their heads over the deal) by making the tobacco company seem kind of, sort of responsible and health-conscious? Then again, if the World Boxing Association decided to partner with L’Oreal cosmetics to do touch-ups on injured players, it wouldn’t change the perception that the entire point of boxing is to mess each other up.
More likely, the company wants to play both sides and find a way to profit off of smokers even when they quit.
There are currently more former smokers in America than current smokers, according to CDC. As one expert told ABC, Reynolds might be able to use Niconovum’s products to profit off that population of quitters “by transforming [Niconovum's products] into longer-term nicotine substitutes that consumers could use for months or years instead of weeks.”
If this is the case, nicotine may become the new cigarette. The only way to beat the tobacco companies now is to become an alcoholic.
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