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HELMICK: I’m in the tiny town of Pfeffikon, just outside Lucerne. And this is the headquarters of Villiger, the cigar maker. This year, the company through all its plants and factories will make about 1 billion cigars and cigarillos. And I’m about three blocks from the headquarters and they also have a production line there, and you can just smell the tobacco. It’s very pungent even three blocks away.
Villiger’s factory in Pfeffikon is not its biggest. It will produce about 90 million of those 1 billion cigars and cigarillos here.
But the process in all the plants in Germany, Switzerland and Austria is basically the same.
Hanspeter Eichenberger giving a tour of the facility in Swiss-German.
Eichenberger is in charge of tobacco processing at Villiger. He has worked there for 37 years.
Eichenberger is joined on the tour by Villiger CEO Peter Witzke.
PETER WITZKE: This is the starting point of the whole processing. Here we get the whole blocks of the raw tobacco. And before it is processed it has a humidity of about 10-percent only. This is the starting point of it…
The company imports tobacco from all over the world:
EICHENBERGER: …Cuban, Brazilian, Bulgarian, Malawian…
Villiger processes more than 350 tons of tobacco every year. Machines in the facility humidify, shake, separate, sort, roll, wrap and package the cigars.
WITZKE: This cigar is produced in the same way since 1935.
Standing at the wrapping station, I ask Hanspeter and Peter about the graphic pictures the government makes them put on all their boxes. Pictures showing the effects of smoking.
Hanspeter: Nein. (laughs)
Peter: It is the worst thing that can happen, you know. We talk about a product that is not made for addiction like cigarettes. This is a product made for pleasure. And there is a huge difference how you smoke a cigar and how you smoke a cigarette.
Hanspeter’s reaction is particularly interesting. He used to smoke…
EICHENBERGER: Cigarettes! (laughs)
Then his doctor told him to quit. He doesn’t smoke cigarettes anymore and cigars don’t do the same for him.
But CEO Peter Witzke is a proud cigar smoker.
He used to work for tobacco-giant Philip Morris, and now tries to distinguish Villiger from ‘big tobacco’.
WITZKE: There is a distinct separation between cigarette consumption and cigar consumption. We are always the small guys. But we are facing the same restrictions as big tobacco does. And getting a picture health warning on our packaging than it would be to the cigarette industry. So whatever restrictions come into the packaging of our products, it is much more difficult to carry on in our business than it would be for the other side, the cigarette guys.
Villiger was established in Switzerland in 1888, so it didn’t move to the canton of Lucerne for a sweetheart tax deal, in fact, its factory in Germany was set up 100 years ago because German authorities offered a better tax deal than the Swiss.
For Villiger, separating cigars from cigarettes is quite a task. Witzke quickly points that cigars are for pleasure and cigarettes are to fed an addiction. But for many, tobacco is still tobacco.
One distinction is clear, a billion cigars a year is a nice number for a small Swiss cigar maker. But for cigarette makers, a billion a year is a tiny, tiny figure. According to the World Health Organization, 15 billion cigarettes are sold around the globe every day.
Total comments: 1 | Add to the discussion.
Well––been there done that. I agree that cigarettes are different from cigars. However the addiction is the same! Tobaco is containing nicotin,period.
Cigarettes have other addictive components added somwhere (paper?)(drugs?)
I got rid of both after many years of struggle and have never breathed easier and coughed less !!!!!!!!!!