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Our own Puff Daddy tries out Philip Morris' latest: the Accord smoking system.

Puff the Magic? Drag on!


Case No.: 8675309.
Operation: Smoking Thumb.
Hypothesis: The only reason people smoke is smoking is cool. Accord is not cool; therefore, Accord is not smoking; therefore, people who use Accord will be taunted and eventually beaten.
Subject: Male Caucasian, 31 years old, 6'1", 204 lbs., Pisces.

Log entries:
9:30 a.m. Receive story assignment at staff meeting. Flip through 18-page slick, glossy Accord advertising booklet from Sunday Richmond Times-Dispatch. (Key message: "Accord brings people together.")
9:31 a.m. Forget story assignment in lieu of Operation: Paper Moon.
3:20 p.m. Find Accord booklet, remember story assignment. Call 1-800-4ACCORD per booklet for nearest retailers. Do not heed instructions to "call ahead for availability" at individual retailers. Also, forget who individual retailers are on way to car.
3:37 p.m. Determine CVS is not an Accord retailer.
3:43 p.m. Determine Walgreen is out of stock.
3:54 p.m. Determine Ukrop's has sold out of regular Accord; only menthol Accord available. Stifle blood-curdling scream.
4:15 p.m. Purchase Accord smoking system at Community Pride. Exit quickly.
4:20 p.m. Return to Style with Accord and receipt ($31.30). Initiate reimbursement procedure with editor. Reimbursement denied.
4:23 p.m. Open Accord box. Contents: One (1) Accord "puff-activated lighter." One (1) charger unit and one (1) replacement lighter cartridge. Three ("three") packs of Accord cigarettes and a "forty" (malt liquor)-page "Owners Guide."
4:25 p.m. Read: "Accord Cigarettes are specially made to be smoked only in the Accord Lighter. Do not light them with a match or any other lighter."
4:26 p.m. Attempt to light Accord Cigarette with regular lighter while "puff-activated lighter" is charging. Attempt fails.
5:18 p.m. Obtain co-worker witnesses for ceremonial first puff using charged Accord "puff-activated lighter." Attempt succeeds. Observations: It is strange smoking a cigarette out of a pager, but kind of fun. Smoke itself is surprisingly smooth and full-flavored.
5:18 p.m. Coerce co-worker "Wayne" into trying Accord. He reports: "Smooth."
5:19 p.m. Co-worker "Jessica" seizes Accord unit, puffs. Reports: "That's pretty full-flavored." Then hogs rest of Accord cigarette (eight puffs per cigarette is manufacturer's limit). Co-worker "Janet" abstains, for test purposes, in case participants suddenly die.
5:20 p.m. Standing in a small circle of co-workers beneath the damp parking lot twilight, realize that, as advertised, Accord has brought people "together."
6:16 p.m. At home, demonstrate Accord to cohabitant in designated "smoking room." Recite Accord virtues from 18-page booklet: "Less smoke around you. Virtually no lingering odor. And no ashes." Explain Accord heats "to burn temperature" the sides of the Accord cigarette and does not emit smoke when not being puffed. Cohabitant wrinkles nose, nods approvingly. Reports: "I can still smell it. But at least it's better than those damn Marlboros."
6:17 p.m. Sitting alone, a bitter winter wind shearing through the half-open window, realize Accord again has brought people "together."
9:17 a.m. Take first official "Accord break" outside office. Identify test subjects nearby: a homeless man talking to a road repair crew. "That's nice," homeless man reports. Puffs again. "Ha ha. Neat gadget. Can I keep it?" Construction worker reports: "Pretty good. I can taste it." Feeling of brotherhood across racial and socioeconomic divides is palpable. Accord — thank you.
9:18 a.m. Decide to determine just how Accord keeps bringing people together.
9:26 a.m. Call 1-800-4ACCORD; eventually speak with public relations person Mary Carnovale. Learn Accord is result of five-year project at Philip Morris; in August 1998 company began "limited retail test" in 20 Richmond-area tobacco stores. About 1,000 Accord units sold in first year. Test expanded in October 1999 to 100 Richmond-area stores, including supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores and mass merchants (e.g., Wal-Mart). In early 2000 Accord will be available in 25 to 50 more stores, making it sold in about 20 percent of the stores that sell cigarettes here. Company is "pleased with where we are now" with product success. Strategy is to find "middle ground" on second-hand smoke issue ("Accord brings people together."). As ultra-light cigarette that does not produce smoke when not being puffed, Accord seen as making smoking, if not smokers, more acceptable to non-smokers.
2:00 p.m. Co-worker "Wayne" embarrassed and uncomfortable when decidedly un-hip-looking Accord used near him in Richmond coffee house. Incident prompts re-assessment: While Accord has functioned above expectations, to its list of product attributes ("Less smoke around you. Virtually no lingering odor. And no ashes.") should be added: "And about as chic as a satin-red Marlboro racing jacket."
6:31 p.m. Attempt first study of Accord in "real world" social situation. At Richmond bar, "casually" produce Accord lighter and Accord cigarette pack from coat pocket and initiate Accord smoking sequence: 1. Remove cigarette from pack. 2. Insert cigarette into lighter. (Notice "full cigarette" symbol on lighter's LED display. Also notice bartender noticing Accord.) 3. Puff Accord; blow smoke. (Notice "full cigarette" symbol is shorter by an eighth. Also notice bartender's alarmed expression as he approaches with mouth opening.) 4. Puff Accord; blow smoke. (Answer inquiries from bartender and well-dressed gentleman nearby about Accord. They raise eyebrows and examine Accord but decline to sample product. Primary impression: discrete disdain. "Bringing people together" factor: moderate.)
7:05 p.m. Attempt second study of Accord in "real world" social situation. At Richmond restaurant, seated with seven non-smokers, "nonchalantly" initiate Accord smoking sequence. (Cohabitant expression: I will kill you if you smoke that thing in front of my boss.) Determine no one notices first puff-blow cycle. (Notice cohabitant reaching for steak knife.) During second puff-blow cycle, attention drawn to Accord. Answer inquiries. Primary impression: amused condescension. "Bringing people together" factor: moderate to low. Probability of nocturnal cohabitant acquiescence: nil.
5:04 p.m. Peruse official press materials from Philip Morris. Find additional Accord benefit: Product presents no fire or car seat-burn hazard. (Cohabitant reaction to notification of additional benefit: "Product presents imminent fracture hazard to your skull.")
11:16 a.m. Utilize Accord extensively during three-hour drive to ritual holiday celebration. Cohabitant appreciates less smoke in car. ("Together" again. Thanks, Accord!)
1:43 a.m. On back porch after ritual holiday celebration, infrequent smoker A ("Mom") declines use of Accord: "Let me have one of your regular cigarettes instead." Infrequent smoker B ("Dad") emerges onto porch: "I thought you two were out here." Reluctantly takes one puff from Accord and goes back inside, without comment, with infrequent smoker A. Outdoor temperature: 13 degrees F. Primary impression: It's too cold to be outside, even smoking; even with Accord. "Bringing people together" factor: low.
2:24 p.m. On return trip, smoke regular cigarette instead of Accord when cohabitant nods off in car.
12:00 a.m. Y2K does not affect Accord. However, use of Accord now virtually nil anyway. Resolutions: None. Trial ended.
Conclusion: Accord is an impressive and effective product that, if only as a tacky novelty, "brings people together." However, it is unclear whether or not people really want to be together. Suggest additional research into this issue and therefore recommend editorial reconsideration of denial of Operation: Paper Moon.

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