vindicator - Linking Canada and Ireland - Linking Canada and Ireland

Tobacco and cigarette ownership unveiled

Do you have a yen for smoking? Quite literally, do you have a yen to buy fags, cigarettes, coffin nails, cigarillos, stogies, call them what you will?

Having grown up in an Ireland where nearly everybody smoked—some medical practitioners even prescribed cigarettes for people with tuberculosis—young people started off buying the cheapest brands available. Woodbines were usually their first choice. If memory serves correctly, they were available in paper packets of five cigarettes, and as pocket money or other funds increased, young people graduated to ten-a-packet, before moving on to the more expansive brands like Players, Gold Flake, and on up the scale.

Needless to say, no one was interested in the ownership of tobacco manufacturers. Some were dimly aware that Carroll’s was an Irish firm, and that Gallahers was too. Note the spelling. No “g” as is normal in the Irish name Gallagher.

In time smokers favoured certain blends and stuck with them throughout their lives, except for those fortunate enough to break their addiction to tobacco altogether. It was a macabre jest that the list of obituaries in the daily newspapers was commonly referred to as “the non-smokers”, those whose deaths had finally severed their dependence on tobacco. Yes, the Irish have their own peculiar sense of humour when dealing with matters funereal. And even before the advent of widespread cigarette smoking, no decent wake was without its plentiful supply of clay pipes and tobacco. When mourners and well-wishers made their way home it was traditional for the white clay pipes they received to be put beyond use, usually by lodging it them in the cracks in stone walls.

What brought all this on? It so happened that an old warehouse in Gallaher’s cigarette factory, founded in 1857, in Ballymena, County Antrim, caught fire on Sunday, September 27. Ballymena? The stomping ground of Ian Paisley and his son, Ian Jr. (See “Musings” elsewhere in this issue).

Fortunately no one was injured, but the blaze in the three-storey building, shed light in news reports about who now actually owns Gallaher’s. Japan Tobacco, that’s who. And who is Japan Tobacco? It’s the same company that owns the international tobacco operations of the US multinational R.J.Reynolds. For a list of its tobacco holdings one should visit its web site. It is an amazing story. It reveals the international scope of one company in the world economy of today. An eye-opener one might say. This is neither to condemn nor uphold what has been the trend in corporate international strategy over the past decades.

In Canada foreign ownership and acquisition of Canadian companies has shown a startling and steady increase over time, and continues its pace in most cases without great public awareness. Much the same prevails in Ireland. Arthur Guinness, which is celebrating its 250th birthday this year, is but one of many examples.

Clawless and toothless, the Celtic tiger now wears many different stripes.

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