A persistent rumor about Big Tobacco making inroads in the marijuana world is not as outlandish as it might have been in years past as big business continues to get in bed with the extraordinarily lucrative cannabis industry following its legalization in several American states, but this particular story is fiction.
A hoax news website called News Watch 33 (which is now defunct and its stories unrecoverable) sparked false reports that Philip Morris planned to start selling legal marijuana cigarettes under the new brand “Marlboro M” in 2016:
George McHadden, who has been named as the new Vice President for the Marlboro M brand, stated in an interview that the company has been interested for quite sometime in the marketing and distribution of cannabis products. According to McHadded, the company has been pushing legislation for the taboo market in Colorado, Washington, California and New Jersey. Based on market trends and legislation being passed in two of the four states the company has focused on, Philip Morris feel extremely comfortable moving forward with it’s Marlboro M brand.
The report is not a new story; we recall hearing about the proposed “Marlboro M” or “Marlboro Green” cigarettes way back in the wilds of the early 1990s when we were in high school, without any social media to spread it. Despite the fact that this is a hoary old myth, the story about these purported plans was shared hundreds of thousands of times and duped many readers.
News Watch 33 was one of many fly-by-night sites that was designed to look like a local television news station to add gravitas and a sheen of legitimacy to their hoaxes. These sites publish fake news stories that are submitted by their community of readers and posted without edits.