Quit smoking cigarettes demands yet another Philip Morris funded initiative
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at 14:09
Simon Clark

We’re all familiar with Philip Morris’s plan to ‘eventually stop selling cigarettes altogether in order to achieve a “smoke-free” future’.

It followed the news, announced in September 2017, that PMI was to donate one billion dollars over twelve years to the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

Since then the company has launched a series of anti-smoking initiatives including, most recently, the risible ‘Unsmoke Your World’ campaign that features the instruction:

If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
If you smoke, quit.
If you don’t quit, change.

Now the company is funding yet another stop smoking initiative. Quit Cigarettes has been created by Change Incorporated which describes itself as a ‘new, purpose-driven media company owned by Vice [magazine]’.

According to Change Incorporated:

Smoking is still the largest cause of premature death in the world, killing 7 million people each year. A deserving target for change, we think.

So, as our first mission, we’re aiming to get people to quit cigarettes. It’s our ambition to reach the world, but we need to see what really works and that’s why we’re focusing on the UK as a start. Why the UK? It is one of the most progressive countries when it comes to public health regulation to support people to quit cigarettes ...

This mission is maybe one of the last things you’d expect to be funded by Philip Morris International. But we’re here to do whatever it takes. It’s time for hard truth – and real change. We believe that a company that has been at the heart of this problem needs to be part of the solution.

And even though they fund our first mission, they don’t have control over what we publish. We are independent, with editorial control. We are totally fearless [sic].

We believe in the power of media to drive behaviour change, and we think it is necessary to provoke change. Does this make us champions of a cause? Or simply a lost one? Let’s find out if we’re right.

Change Incorporated say the campaign will go global ‘soon’ but if you live outside the UK you are currently blocked from visiting the site.

Curiously, apart from a report in the Financial Times in March, the campaign has gone largely unreported.

(The FT claimed, inaccurately it was said, that PMI ‘has teamed up with youth-focused Vice Media to promote vaping’. So far, to the best of my knowledge, there has been no mention of e-cigarettes or other risk reduction products.)

What is surprising is that despite posting a series of articles and videos on its website, Change Incorporated has tweeted just once, on April 2. To put this in perspective, the Vice and PMI Twitter accounts post numerous tweets every day.

As far as I can tell, neither the PMI nor the Philip Morris UK accounts have mentioned the Change Incorporated Quit Cigarettes initiative at all. Not once.

Nevertheless the campaign must be building a head of steam because last week it held its first live event – in Norwich!

According to the local paper:

The Quit Smoking event will take place on Tuesday, April 30 and has been organised by Change Incorporated, a new website run by Vice magazine.

Award-winning comedian and author Russell Kane, best known for travel series Stupid Man Smart Phone and spin-off show I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! NOW!, will be live from 11am at The Forum.

He will be igniting the debate about smoking in Norwich and will be joined by exercise initiative Fight Klub, which will be running free sessions in the ampitheatre during the day.

In the evening, Russell will be joined by poet Luke Wright, former Norwich City legend Iwan Roberts, author Gillian Bridge, who wrote self-help book Stop Smoking It's All In The Mind, and The Murderers landlord Phillip Cutter.

The speakers will be at The Last Pub Standing from 6.30pm and, through facts and stories, will delve into what Norwich really thinks about smoking and how we can make this the final generation that smokes.

Sadly I had a previous commitment in London otherwise I would have been tempted to go, not least because I rather like Russell Kane!

Anyway I'll keep an eye out for further events. Meanwhile, if you’re wondering what you’re missing by not visiting the Change Incorporated website, here are a few headlines:

Here’s how smoking is sabotaging your love life
How smoking harms your memory
The sweet smell of successfully giving up smoking

Update: It appears that Change Incorporated is far more active on Facebook where its videos ('She smokes, I worry', 'Sucks to be a smoker', 'Smoking can shrink your penis' etc etc) are attracting hundreds of thousands of views. I'd love to know where they are all coming from.

PS. My interest in this initiative is fuelled partly by the fact that I was interviewed in January by a freelance journalist who said he had been commissioned by Vice to write an article about the 'smoking lobby'.

In March I was told the article was due to be published in April. It still hasn't appeared. I'm beginning to think it never will. The question is, why?

Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (http://taking-liberties.squarespace.com/).
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