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PMI: charmingly predictable 

It's World No Tobacco Day today and what could be more charmingly predictable than this timely announcement by Philip Morris International.

Calling for World No Tobacco Day to be renamed 'World No Smoking Day', André Calantzopoulos, PMI's chief executive officer, said:

"Our short-term ambition is that one out of three of our consumers, 40 million men and women who smoke, will have switched to better alternatives by 2025. Ultimately, we want to be in a position to stop selling cigarettes entirely.

"However, we need the support of governments and the public health community to make this happen in as short a time as possible. I believe that instead of just designating one day as World No Tobacco Day, we should promote every day as World No Smoking Day."

What makes me chuckle is that someone in Lausanne must think they're being extremely clever.

Alternatively, stuck in their bubble (sorry, 'Cube'), perhaps they genuinely think every PMI customer wants to quit smoking or switch to one of their "alternative" non-combustible products.

The company's latest proposal may achieve a few more headlines but the novelty of these proclamations is beginning to wear thin. Remember this?

Philip Morris International, the world’s largest international tobacco company, could eventually stop selling cigarettes, its chief executive told the BBC on Wednesday, as it launched its alternative product IQOS in the UK market.

“I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products ... to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes,” Andre Calantzopoulos said in an interview on BBC Radio 4.

“I hope this time will come soon,” he added.

Philip Morris CEO looks towards phasing out cigarettes (Reuters, November 30, 2016)

Or this:

The world’s biggest tobacco company has for the first time asked to be taxed more by Chancellor Philip Hammond – to encourage smokers to switch to healther alternatives.

Philip Morris, which makes brands such as Marlboro, said it backed an increase in taxes on its cigarettes as part of its bid to move to a “smoke-free future”.

Tax us more, world's biggest cigarette maker tells Philip Hammond - to persuade smokers to use e-cigarettes (Daily Telegraph, March 2, 2017)

Or this:

One of the world’s biggest tobacco companies has launched the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, claiming that it wants to see a future in which people will stop smoking its cigarettes ...

In a public relations coup for PMI, the foundation will be headed by Derek Yach, a former senior figure at the World Health Organisation who was responsible for the launch of its global tobacco control treaty.

Tobacco company launches foundation to stub out smoking (Guardian, September 13, 2017).

And this:

One of the world’s biggest tobacco companies has said it is “trying to give up cigarettes”. Philip Morris, which makes Marlboros and a host of other brands, placed full-page adverts in UK national newspapers this week promoting its “ambition to stop selling cigarettes in the UK”.

The company's advert read: “Philip Morris is known for cigarettes. Every year, many smokers give them up. Now it's our turn."

“Our ambition is to stop selling cigarettes in the UK. It won't be easy. But we are determined to turn our vision into reality. There are 7.6 million adults in the UK who smoke. The best action they can take is to quit smoking,” it continued.

Philip Morris says it wants to stop selling cigarettes in latest advertising campaign (Independent, January 4, 2018).

The irony is that Marlboro Red, a PMI product, is one of only a handful of cigarette brands I have ever heard smokers talk about with something approaching reverence. (Another is Gauloises.)

Journalist Tom Utley, a winner of a Forest award in 2006, is a good example of this. Go back many years and you'll find that Tom's columns (even in the health conscious Daily Mail) are laced with references to 'the Marlboro Red in my mouth', 'without my daily fix of innumerable Marlboro Reds', 'with my taste for the bottle and Marlboro Reds' and, most damningly:

You will see me, in all weathers, banished to the pavement outside the pub, dragging on Marlboro Red after Marlboro Red, lighting the next one seconds after putting out the last.

Tom likes the brand so much he complained, in yet another column, when we forgot to send him the 200 Marlboro Red cigarettes we promised him in lieu of a trophy for his Forest award.

Meanwhile, only this week, another journalist told me, "Yes, I'm a committed Marlboro Red smoker ... wouldn't touch another fag."

I mention this because it strikes me that PMI's current position is a betrayal of every customer who continues to invest in Marlboro Red and other brands of cigarette.

To be clear, I don't have a problem with the company developing and promoting risk reduction products. That makes complete sense on so many levels.

But suggesting "we should promote every day as World No Smoking Day"?

Customers who enjoy smoking and don't want to quit have a right to expect support, not press releases designed to appease the anti-smoking industry.

In any case, the idea that PMI and tobacco control are going to walk off, arm-in-arm, into a smokeless future defies belief.

The WHO and most of the tobacco control movement want to crush the tobacco industry, and PMI with it.

Smoking cessation isn't the endgame. The endgame is a world free of all tobacco products and, ultimately, nicotine itself.

However much PMI flirts with tobacco control, that’s one marriage of convenience that will never happen.

Smokers, meanwhile, continue to get screwed.

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Reader Comments (3)

PMI is led by a rabid smokerphobic so why not an alliance between the anti smoker industry and the anti smoker company?

Until smokers stop buying from PMI and put their money where their mouth is, all smokers who refuse to quit and do not want to be forced to switch, will continue to get screwed by all sides.

Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 8:30 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

What makes me chuckle is that someone in Lausanne must think they're being extremely clever

They've obviously never heard of Gerald Ratner.

If they don't have faith in their own products, of which the IQOS is an imitation, why should anyone else?

Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 9:13 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

" Ultimately, we [PMI] want to be in a position to stop selling cigarettes entirely"
I would be happy with that if I thought PMI would not then try and prevent less smokerphobic tobacco companies from selling tobacco. But I put the chances of that as close to zero.

Friday, June 1, 2018 at 11:13 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

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