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« PMI Watch #1 | Main

PMI Watch - Introduction

According to Peter Nixon, managing director of Philip Morris UK, “There is no reason why people should smoke anymore.”

This comment is one of a series of anti-smoking statements issued by the tobacco giant over the past three years.

Others include the headline-grabbing claim that the company wants to stop selling cigarettes in the UK by 2030. Another was the announcement, in September 2017, that Philip Morris International (PMI) will donate one billion dollars to a new organisation, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, over twelve years.

In April 2019 a new initiative, Quit Cigarettes, created by Change Incorporated (VICE) and funded by PMI, was launched. Headlines to date have included:

It Broke My Heart to Watch Them Die
Are Festivals Doing Enough to Phase Out Smoking?
Can You Really Cough Up Your Lungs?
How Smoking Increases Chances of Genital Warts
This Is How Smoking Makes Your Penis Shrink
How Smoking is Ruining Your Sex Life
Is Smoking a Deal-Breaker on Tinder?
How Cigarettes Blight British Seaside Towns
Why It’s Time to Ban Smoking in Airports For Good

A disclaimer on the Change Incorporated website states that, ‘VICE maintains editorial control, so Philip Morris International may not share the views expressed.’ In reality, the initiative’s relentless anti-smoking message is not dissimilar to the stance adopted by PMI on social media and elsewhere.

To be clear, I fully support efforts by PMI (and other companies) to develop, manufacture and market risk reduction products. I also support efforts to educate and inform consumers about the relative risks of different tobacco or nicotine-related products.

Having spoken to ex-smokers who have switched to e-cigarettes or heated tobacco, I am also favourably impressed by PMI’s IQOS device. I have written or said as much on several occasions.

I cannot however support a strategy that actively belittles consumers who enjoy smoking and don’t want to quit, whilst targeting a ‘smoke free world’ that can only be achieved by discriminating against millions of adults, raising taxes to punitive levels, and creating a world in which consumers are not only denied the choice of combustible products but are increasingly restricted from using them.

If smokers choose, of their own volition, to quit or switch to reduced risk products, that’s absolutely fine. Treating them like imbeciles if they don’t is not.

Beginning October 2019, PMI Watch will monitor and record the most egregious examples of the company’s anti-smoking (and anti-smoker) agenda.

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