Technological innovation enabled successful cigarette marketing
In this excerpt, Faircloth emphasizes the importance of the cigarette machine in stimulating the growth of the tobacco industry, because it made smoking easy and glamorous in a way that hand-rolling could not. But its glamour is fading along with its acreage, Faircloth notes, as smoking becomes socially unacceptable. He concedes that cigarettes are addictive and harmful, but asks, "What isn't?"
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Lauch Faircloth, July 16, 1999. Interview I-0070. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
JM: Let me ask you this. Let me have you reflect on how the part of the state's agricultural economy that is still growing a lot of tobacco has been fairing in the last ten, fifteen years.
LF: Well, I drifted off on you. It's changing. The cigarette machine changed the tobacco industry. What changed the tobacco industry? The cigarette machine. Do you think Greta Garbo could've sold cigarettes if she'd have had to take out a sack of paper and licked it and spit it and pulled the tobacco into it? How glamorous would that have been? Nothing like sitting under a beach umbrella with a hat on with an elegant pack of Lucky Strikes in a green, beautiful pack. You didn't know they used to be green, did you? Lucky Strikes used to be green and the war came on. God knows, I never have understood the war, but all of a sudden they wanted the green dye -- the government did. So Lucky Strikes came in a white pack. The slogan was “Lucky Strike green has gone to war.” The cigarette machine made it. “I'll have a cigarette.” Just some paper, here's a little sack of tobacco, roll yourself one. How about sitting in that Stork Club rolling yourself a cigarette? The cigarette machine made it highly acceptable. No question, tobacco's addictive, habit forming, whatever. What isn't? So are corn flakes if you eat them every morning. So is anything that you do on a regular, consistent basis. Now no question, it'll destroy your health, but as far as the habit forming part of it, I don’t see that it's any more habit forming than taking Metamucil every morning. If you take it every morning, you feel like you've got to have it. Certainly, it's devastating to your health. There's no argument. There's no question. We've discovered that. I don’t think that the man that invented the cigarette machine had any idea. I'm satisfied that J.B. Duke had no earthly idea that cigarettes were harmful. It's in the span of time just in the last few years that we've become aware here, and pretty much people have quit smoking. A few still are, but it's a social change and the tobacco industry, the farming of it's pretty well over. There'll be some tobacco grown, but cigarette consumption is going to continue to decline. It's not a socially acceptable practice, but there'll be a few [smokers]. [There will be a] little tobacco grown. There'll be a few people smoking. What the hell? Prostitution is still around, but it's not much of a way of life or affecting many people.
JM: I'm surprised at how definitive your views are about how tobacco acreage in North Carolina--.
LF: Oh, it'll drop out to nothing.
JM: How fast?
LF: Pretty more rapidly than we expect. Number one, you can grow tobacco anywhere in the world. Finest country to grow tobacco in was Zimbabwe or Rhodesia. Of course, they have such political turmoil, they can't grow anything. They can only grow welfare checks and subsidies. That's the finest country. China can grow tobacco. So the companies will be moving their manufacturing overseas. The reason it's still here now is Marlboro. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes will bring a dollar more in Germany made in the United States than they will made in Germany. That's a stupid way [to do it], but they'll do it. So, that gap will begin to close. As the Chinese become more sophisticated, as the Asians become more sophisticated, the consumption of tobacco will be a fourth world habit. It will disappear.
JM: So you think it's going to fall off say in China and Asia as well in another generation because of the underlying health issue?
LF: All right, who smokes in the United States today? Who smokes?
JM: I imagine it's pretty much a class-defined thing by and large.
LF: A what?
JM: [It’s a ] class defined thing, increasingly.
LF: Increasingly. When we were talking about putting the tax on tobacco, the statistics were that we were going to put the biggest tax increase in the history of the world on about twenty-six percent of the lowest income segment of society. Who wants to identify themselves, except a few nuts, with being in the lower segment of society? How many people go to Goldman-Sachs for a job in a T-shirt with a pack of Marlboros sticking out of their pocket?