Altria, the owner of leading tobacco maker Philip Morris is sponsoring an offensive advertisement campaign targeting the Indian Tribal smoke shops and calling on the NY State to tax tobacco sold in reservations.
Indian tribal leaders complain the campaign is another move to oblige them to levy taxes on their products, demolishing their business – a plan that would strengthen Philip Morris’ leadership in nationwide tobacco market.
The ads funded by the tobacco giant appeared in all major newspapers across the New York State in the beginning of April.
“Albany Lets Billions Slip through Its Fingers. Tax Dollars We Need for Vital Services Go Uncollected,” one of the adverts states, ignoring the fact that Indians pay federal taxes, as well as other U.S citizens.
The campaign plays on the concerns of NYS residents regarding the unbelievable $9.2 billion deficit in the budget.
James Ransom, St. Regis Mohawk Indian Nation co-chairman, states that the ad campaign is not an act of altruism from Philip Morris, but a pure hypocrisy, as they are eager to destroy competition from Indian tribes and increase their own cigarette sales.
The same Philip Morris that did their best to encourage and promote sales of their products by signing contracts and giving discounts to Indian smoke shops, has now attempting to eliminate Indian retailers from the fading U.S tobacco market, said Ransom.
“Now Philip Morris demonstrates shocking disregard for Indian retailers who assisted them in creating the market dominance they achieved today, so they don’t need us anymore, and thus, they are willing to eliminate us and boost their presence in the market even more,” stated Mr. Ransom.
The aggressive advertisements have made Indian retailers raging with anger.
“If I could, I would stop selling Marlboros in my shop. I can’t stand people, attempting to crack down our business,” admitted Patti Snow, an owner of smoke shop in Seneca Nation reservation.
According to Snow, Philip Morris was evidently trying to put an end to the loss of market share to low-cost Indian-made cigarettes, hugely popular among adult smokers.
Indian-made cigarette are selling for much less than the tobacco products made by Philip Morris products. For instance, a carton of Marlboros is selling $65 whereas Native American Niagara cigarettes are selling for $32 per carton.
The Native American tobacco industry that pays millions of dollars annual directly to the general economy or through opening industry-related jobs, is currently in huge jeopardy.
On April 1st, President Barack Obama signed into law the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act that prohibits the U.S. Postal Services to ship cigarettes purchased thorough the Internet, a niche occupied by Indian Nations and especially popular among American smokers since the 1990s.
“The Representatives of Philip Morris ensured us they would be neutral in the issue concerning the taxation of Indian-made cigarettes. Then two weeks ago, totally unexpectedly and even without notifying us about their potential attack, they publish these atrocious ads, literally naming us as criminals, despite namely Philip Morris helped us to establish our business,” Ransom said.