Mar. 16 2005
Washington, DC — Philip Morris, the world’s largest multinational tobacco company, never misses an opportunity to claim that it is a changed, responsible business. But Philip Morris’ actions tell a different story and show that the company continues to put profits ahead of public health. In the latest example, Philip Morris International is bidding to buy one of Indonesia’s largest cigarette makers. This would allow Philip Morris to exploit a market with few public health measures in place to curb tobacco use and put Philip Morris in the business of manufacturing a cigarette, called a kretek, that exposes smokers to high levels of nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. Philip Morris executives have stated that they plan to increase production of kretek cigarettes and export them to other countries, including China.
In short, Philip Morris is seeking to boost its profits by selling highly toxic cigarettes at great cost to public health in some of the world’s poorest countries. While Philip Morris makes more money, more people will become sick and die from smoking its cigarettes. This is the real Philip Morris. Philip Morris’ efforts to exploit new markets in Indonesia and other countries shatter the illusion it has sought to create in the United States that it is a responsible company. Philip Morris should be judged by its actions worldwide, not its words on television in the U.S.
It is especially alarming that Philip Morris is buying a leading cigarette manufacturer in a country, Indonesia, that has so few measures in place to discourage tobacco use and that is one of the few countries that did not sign the new international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Philip Morris claims to support the treaty, yet one of its first acts after the treaty took effect February 27 is a major international expansion that amounts to an end run around the treaty.
Philip Morris’ actions underscore the urgent need for nations to quickly ratify and implement the tobacco treaty before Philip Morris and other multinational tobacco companies have further opportunity to exploit their markets. The treaty commits nations to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (with an exception for nations with constitutional constraints); require large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs; implement measures to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke; increase the price of tobacco products; and regulate the content of tobacco products. As home to Philip Morris, the United States has a special obligation to be a leader in these global tobacco control efforts by ratifying the treaty and supporting its effective implementation both domestically and internationally.