Philip Morris International Spin-off Underscores Need for Nations To Implement Proven Measures to Reduce Tobacco Use

Statement of Damon Moglen, Vice President, International Programs, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Aug. 29 2007

Washington, D.C. – Today’s announcement by Altria/Philip Morris that it will spin off Philip Morris International as a separate company should set off global alarms that nations must implement proven measures to reduce tobacco use and save lives. Nations are in a race against time to stop a global tobacco epidemic that will kill one billion people worldwide this century unless urgent action is taken. Philip Morris and other tobacco companies are moving relentlessly to exploit new markets and find new customers for their deadly products, especially in developing nations. Governments must act even more quickly and aggressively to protect the health of their citizens.

Financial analysts view the Philip Morris International spin-off as an effort to expand more aggressively in developing nations as smoking rates decline in the United States and other developed nations. While Philip Morris and parent company Altria portray this move as a business decision that will benefit the bottom line, many countries and families around the world will pay a high price in lives lost, greater incidence of tobacco-caused disease and higher health care costs.

Nations should quickly and effectively implement the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, before Philip Morris and other multinational tobacco companies have further opportunity to target their citizens. To date, 149 nations have ratified the treaty. The treaty commits nations to implementing scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, including:

  • banning all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships (with exceptions for nations with constitutional constraints);
  • requiring large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs;
  • enacting comprehensive smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public places;
  • increasing tobacco product prices;
  • combating cigarette smuggling; and
  • banning deceptive cigarette descriptions such as “light” and “low-tar.”

The relentless pursuit of new markets and customers by Philip Morris and other tobacco companies is a primary reason why the tobacco epidemic is exploding around the world, especially in developing countries. Five million people will die worldwide this year because of tobacco. Unless urgent action is taken, tobacco will kill 10 million people a year by 2020, 70 percent of them in developing countries. However, if adult cigarette consumption is reduced by 50 percent worldwide, nations can avert more than 300 million needless deaths from tobacco around the world within the next 50 years. Philip Morris’ announcement is a reminder that the time for nations to act is now.

 

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