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Will the Ebola Virus Solve Big Tobacco’s Image Problem?

ebola tobacco

Please be aware that I wrote this post’s headline with my tongue pressed firmly to my cheek. As a former smoker who finally quit the nasty habit, I’m happy to have the positive reinforcement of tobacco’s negative health consequences in the news as much as it can.

That said, this bit of breaking news is quite interesting: Ebola Drug Made From Tobacco Plant Saves U.S. Aid Workers.

Somebody, somewhere out in Marlboro Country is giving a yippee ki yay. Methinks it might be coming from the PR department.

As BloombergBusinessWeek reports, “a tiny San Diego-based company provided an experimental Ebola treatment for two Americans infected with the deadly virus in Liberia. The biotechnology drug, produced with tobacco plants, appears to be working.”

In an unusual twist of expedited drug access, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which has nine employees, released its experimental ZMapp drug, until now only tested on infected animals, for the two health workers. Kentucky BioProcessing LLC, a subsidiary of tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc. (RAI:US), manufactures the treatment for Mapp from tobacco plants.

The first patient, Kent Brantly, a doctor, was flown from Liberia to Atlanta on Aug. 2, and is receiving treatment at Emory University Hospital. Nancy Writebol, an aid worker, is scheduled to arrive in Atlanta today and will be treated at the same hospital, according to the charity group she works with. Both are improving, according to relatives and supporters.

Each patient received at least one dose of ZMapp in Liberia before coming to the U.S., according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Can it be true? Can America’s most unhealthy, problematic product simultaneously serve as the solution to our most recent health scare?

How might the tobacco industry spin this news to a rebranding and marketing advantage? Do they dare?!

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