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Engler to snuff cigarette factory

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pe ise> 10 3<br><br>Engler to snuff cigarette factory<br><br>MAR 21 1592<br><br>By DAVID POULSON<br><br>ANN ARBOR NEWS BUREAU<br><br>NEWS BUREAU PHOTO<br><br>The Northern Lights brand of cigarettes is being snuffed out by a new state policy.<br><br>LANSING - On June 15, Gov. John Engler will extinguish Michigan’s Northern Lights.<br><br>It’s not that his political clout extends to the atmospheric phenomenon. Engler last week announced the closing of Michigan’s only cigarette factory.<br><br>Since 1986, Michigan prisoners have made the Northern Lights brand cigarettes at the Scott Cor-, rectional Facility in Plymouth.<br><br>“We make menlHoFand regular and all with a filter tip,” said Howard Gentry, who is in charge of the state’s prison industries.<br><br>The decision, part of a new state smoking policy, halts an eight-person operation that produced more than a half a million packs and posted sales of $365,000 last year.<br><br>About three-quarters of the sales go to Michigan prisoners. The rest are popular with county jails nationwide.<br><br>“We’ve sold them to correctional facilities as far away as Alaska,” Gentry said.<br><br>The cigarettes wholesale for about 65 cents a pack, including<br><br>taxes. Retail cost to prisoners averages about $1.30 a pack. That varies throughout the state, although typically it is 60 to 70 cents cheaper than the name brands.<br><br>Profits go to inmate benefit funds to buy recreation equipment and other communal goods.<br><br>Northern Lights are not exactly the hottest-selling smokes in prison, said Roger Gillespie, administrative assistant at the Michigan Training Unit in Ionia. “The prisoners mainly are fixated on brands - either Kools or Marlboros or whatever.”<br><br>Gentry said thaf prison indus-<br><br>tries, which last year posted $28 million in sales, can take the financial hit.<br><br>“That’s a small portion of our budget. We’re not worried about it.”<br><br>Shutting down state cigarette production is consistent with the governor’s philosophy of keeping Michigan citizens healthy, said spokesman John Truscott.<br><br>“Our bottom line goal is to make our whole society healthier and that includes those in prisons,” Truscott said.<br><br>But the ban applies only to production. Smoking, will continue within prison housing units.