A Review of Cigarette Marketing in Canada - 5th Edition - Summer 2006


Retail Discount SKOAL Short-Takes Marlboro? New Packaging Tobacco Dtats

Welcome to Canada's Marlboro Country.
Well, sort of.
In July 2006, the Canadian subsidiary of Philip Morris/Altria* launched, for the very first time, a cigarette that looks like, smells like, and by all accounts, tastes like, the world's largest cigarette brand.

The only noticeable difference is that this Marlboro-like brand does not carry the Marlboro name. That's because the Marlboro name is owned by a BAT's affiliate - Philip Morris/Altria's biggest competitor in the global cigarette market.  Since 1932 the Marlboro trade mark has been owned by BAT-related companies -- and they have staunchly kept it in use to defend against Philip Morris introducing its much more popular brand. Many Canadians are very unaware that cigarettes with the Marlboro name are marketed in Canada -- they are carried by a small number of tobacco stores, and are often stored in the bottom shelves. The package (see right) is relatively nondescript, as are the sales figures (less than 1-tenth of one-percent market share).

The cigarettes now available in Canada may not carry the Marlboro name, but, as the package samples below illustrate, they can be readily identified as the world's most famous brand. 

Canadian manufactured no-name Marlboro's, available in Ottawa stores, July 2006. U.S. manufactured Marlboro picked up on Ottawa's streets.
Will the secret be revealed?

BAT researchers found that the exact blend and taste of Marlboro varied  considerably around the world, but that there was a consistency in the way Philip Morris used ammoniation and other measures to manipulate smoke-ph and available 'free nicotine' in the smoke.  They dubbed this "the Secret of Marlboro".

Although Rothmans, Benson and Hedges will have to provide the Canadian government with a list of ingredients and measurements of the smoke from the cigarette, these reports are not required until after the product has been introduced to the market.  The first report will be due to be filed with Health Canada in October 2006. Health Canada has only made individual reports on cigarette brands public on one occasion, even though quarterly reports have been required since 2000..

A challenge to conventional regulation.

Canada's tobacco laws, like those in other countries, are based on the premise that Cigarettes are sold with brand names, and that words are used to communicate ideas about cigarettes. The use of icons (like cow-boys, colours, angles, patterns of colour and white) are more difficult to regulate.

Over a decade has passed since Canada's parliament last considered whether cigarettes should be sold in 'plain' packages.  Such packages would have brand names and health warnings, but would not have brand imagery or colours.  The new no-name Marlboro's are the direct opposite of this approach:  they can rely only on brand imagery and colours to communicate.  When a picture is worth a thousand words, the words become dispensible, perhaps.


Phillip Morris owns 40% of Rothmans, Benson and Hedges.  The other 60% is owned by Rothmans Inc.

Filter-Tips is produced by Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.
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