R.J. Reynolds offering buyouts to about 1,800 workers..

December 4, 2009 - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of Camel cigarettes, said Friday it is offering buyouts to about 1,800 workers at its North Carolina factories to cut costs.

The company does not have a specific number of jobs it hopes to cut, spokeswoman Jan Smith said. There are other productivity improvements and cuts the company, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., could make in manufacturing, depending how many employees take the buyout, which includes severance pay, Smith said.

"This process will not result in job eliminations among anyone who doesn't raise their hand and say they're interested," Smith said.

The move comes as tax increases, health concerns, smoking bans and social stigma continue cutting into demand for cigarettes.

Parent company Reynolds American Inc., the nation's second-largest tobacco company, said it shipped 11 percent fewer cigarettes in this year's third quarter than last and estimated the industry's decline at 12.6 percent.

Altria Group Inc. - based in Richmond, Va., and owner of the nation's largest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, which makes Marlboros - closed its Cabarrus County, N.C., cigarette factory in July to bring its manufacturing capacity in line with falling demand.

Employees who elect to take the current Reynolds Tobacco buyout could begin leaving as early as January, Smith said, though the process may last until 2011.

Reference: Reynolds offers buyouts to manufacturing workers by MICHAEL FELBERBAUM, Associated Press, 12/4/2009.