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Major U.S. cigarette maker institutes office smoking ban

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The second largest tobacco producer in the United States, Reynolds American said Thursday it will ban smoking in all indoor office spaces, bowing to smoke-free social norms.

The manufacturer of Pall Mall and Camel cigarettes said starting from January 1, 2015 smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes in conference rooms and elevators will be prohibited.

Designated smoking rooms will be opened by 2016 at the company’s headquarters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and at its two other offices in Tennessee and New Mexico.

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Until then, employees can still light up in hallways and in closed offices.

The company said the new regulations respect the rights of smokers and non-smokers alike, and make more sense in an increasingly smoke-free world.

“We recognize that indoors restrictions are the norm today, so most people expect a smoke free business environment,” Reynolds American spokesman David Howard.

“We respect the rights and personal choices of employees who choose to smoke or use other tobacco products and those who don’t.”

E-cigarettes and chewing tobacco are still permitted.

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Smoking is already banned in the company’s production factories, cafeterias and fitness centers, and the move to extend the no-smoking zone was in line with the public standards, according to Howard.

“We are simply better aligning our tobacco use policies with the realities of what we’re seeing in the general public today,” he said.

Around 20 percent of Reynolds American employees smoke, the spokesman noted, compared to 20 percent of American adults who have not kicked the habit.

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Smoking is banned in most public spaces in North Carolina, including bars and restaurants, but Reynolds America’s offices are exempt from the law, Reynolds said.

The company announced in July it will acquire tobacco behemoth Lorillard, the number three US firm and manufacturer of the Blu e-cigarette.

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The merger, will make Reynolds American the country’s largest tobacco firm, with about 50 percent of the market.

It is looking to conquer the growing e-cigarette and cigar market as smoking cigarettes declines.

Reynolds American currently holds 25 percent of the US tobacco market, while Lorillard holds 15 percent, and Altria, producer of the iconic Marlboro cigarettes, controls about 50 percent.

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West Virginia mail carrier busted for helping GOP by tampering with absentee ballot requests

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A mail carrier in West Virginia is facing jail time after he was caught tampering with absentee ballot requests in a way that suppressed turnout in local Democratic primary elections.

BuzzFeed News reports that 47-year-old Thomas Cooper pleaded guilty this week to attempting to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election when he switched West Virginia residents' ballot requests from Democratic to Republican ballots.

Cooper altered a total of eight different ballot requests, although he told investigators that he did it "as a joke" and didn't mean to cause any harm. Cooper's attorney, Scott Curnutte, similarly told BuzzFeed News that Cooper's actions had just been a "silly lark."

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France investigates report of bodies ‘left to rot’ at Paris research centre

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French investigating magistrates will probe claims that human corpses donated for science were left to rot and be eaten by rats at a university research facility, the Paris prosecutor's office said Thursday.

A probe into "violations of the integrity of a corpse" was handed over to the magistrates by prosecutors who handled the initial phase of the investigation after l'Express magazine reported the scandal last November.

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Dutch ‘golden age’ statue stirs ghosts of colonial past

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The statue of a Dutch 17th century colonialist has become a flashpoint for the debate in the Netherlands on its past of slavery and colonization in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.

For some, the sculpture of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, a key official in the Dutch East India Company considered a national hero for colonising what is now Indonesia, is a memorial to the Dutch "Golden Age".

Traditionalists, like populist eurosceptic leader Thierry Baudet, have laid flowers at the foot of the statue in the port town of Hoorn to show support after several statues of historical figures were damaged in the Netherlands.

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