Yes, even cigarette makers can be admired. Altria's roster of strong premium brands helped it keep customers despite the recession. Marlboro remains the most popular smoke in the U.S., accounting for a whopping 41.8% of cigarette sales at retail outlets. Add in Parliaments, Virginia Slims and others, and Altria made nearly half the cigarettes U.S. retailers sold last year.
And even as Americans downgraded their spending on many consumer products, the largest U.S. cigarette company increased non-cigarette sales. Its smokeless division -- i.e. chewing tobacco -- saw sales volume rise 4% in the latest quarter.
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