Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Aren't 41 Years of Killing Enough?

A Colombian institution is about to disappear - and good riddance!

Mustang cancer sticks are becoming Rothmans.
Mustang cigarettes, which have been sickening and killing low-income Colombians for more than four decades, are finally going away. But don't celebrate yet: Mustang is to be replaced by BAT's Rothmans brand.

Vice published a nostalgic article about the Mustang brand's 'Colombianness' - even tho Mustangs are manufactured in Chile, and naming a cigarette after a North American horse doesn't exactly scream 'Colombia.'

Young men smoking. Today's young addicts
are customers until smoking kills them.
BAT claims the name change comes because its customers 'demand a more globalized brand.' In fact, the low-income Colombians who tend to smoke Mustangs don't care about much except price. And BAT is apparently making the switch in order to save money by having to print fewer types of boxes. Addicts, they figure, will be loyal customers.

Selling cigarettes
alongside candies.
Colombia seems like a desireable market for Big Tobacco. According to official statistics, tobacco consumption is slowly declining - but that's hard to say, since many cigarettes are smuggled into Colombia (often, apparently, with tobacco companies' collaboration. Reportedly, most of Colombia's smuggled cigarettes come from Paraguayan factories owned by that nation's president). Colombia does require dramatic visual warnings on cigarette packs, but other anti-smoking policies have been pointless: A 2011 law prohibiting the sale of loose cigarettes is so widely ignored that you can buy 'loosies' on nearly every corner in central Bogotá, making it cheap and easy for kids to become addicted, and guaranteeing tobacco companies a future market. The sale of single cigarettes also means that many smokers never see those graphic health warnings.

It's easy for kids to buy smokes from street vendors.
And the prohibition on advertising cigarettes is made a joke by cigarette 'displays' in many stores featuring huge packs. A 2016 ruling requiring cigarette packs to be hidden in stores has not been enforced.

Meanwhile, some 25,000 Colombians die every year from smoking-related illnesses, according to the government, and innumerable more lose quality of life from tobacco's diseases.

A man lights up a loosie just purchased from a street vendor. 

Brass cigarettes, one of many cheap smuggled brands.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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