Get Your Foreign Butts Out of Our Convenience Stores!

Want to make Big Tobacco really mad? Just try importing export-only cigarettes

Customers of Allstate and other such distributors are usually small independently owned or franchised operations like gas stations and convenience stores, not major retail chains. Tamara Herrera, manager of a Shell station on Bird Road west of the Palmetto, says the only diverted brand she carries is Marlboro, which costs her "a couple of dollars" less per carton. She also carries domestic Marlboro because many customers demand packs that feature the "Marlboro Miles" promotion.

With all the financial hits the tobacco manufacturers have taken recently -- the federal tax increase, the national $368.5 billion settlement, this month's $11.3 billion settlement with the State of Florida -- the price of domestic cigarettes should soon show a marked rise. The cheaper diverted smokes will likely become even more attractive, and profitable, to retailers and wholesalers.

But are American cigarettes produced for export the same in every way as cigarettes produced for domestic consumption? Apparently not. An informal sampling conducted by New Times revealed that a locally purchased pack of diverted Marlboro contained cigarettes that were considerably milder and two millimeters longer. Representatives of Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds would not respond to questions regarding differences between their domestic and export products.

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