A “Responsible” Tobacco Company? Philip Morris International’s Actions Contradict CEO’s Claim
Camilleri downplays tobacco’s toll, dismisses youth concerns at shareholders’ meeting
Posted by: Editor | May 11, 2012
Confronted by activists – including youth who traveled to New York City to attend Philip Morris International’s annual shareholders meeting this week – Philip Morris CEO Louis Camilleri again played down the deadly consequences of his company’s products and claimed the company acts responsibly when the evidence shows otherwise.
At last year’s shareholders meeting, Camilleri minimized how addictive cigarettes truly are, stating that “it is not that hard to quit” (he backtracked under a torrent of criticism).
At this year's meeting, he stated that "cigarettes are a cause of very significant diseases," the Financial Times reported. While technically true, this statement falls far short of reality, which is that tobacco use is the world’s number one cause of preventable death. It kills nearly six million people worldwide each year. As the largest multinational tobacco company, Philip Morris’ Marlboros and other cigarettes are responsible for a big share of these deaths.
Camilleri also claimed that his company does business “in the most responsible manner possible” and “we market our products to adult consumers.” In fact, Philip Morris International continues to market in ways that appeal to kids and ruthlessly fights countries’ efforts to reduce tobacco use and save lives.
In Indonesia, Philip Morris subsidiary Sampoerna frequently sponsors entertainment events, a form of marketing that has been shown to influence youth to smoke. The company’s “A Mild” cigarette brand sponsors the A Mild Wanted contest, a band talent search competition held throughout Indonesia.
Last year, Sampoerna placed a billboard in Jakarta that basically told Indonesian kids cigarettes are worth dying for. The billboard depicted a young man reaching out to catch up with friends on a bus, with the slogan: "Dying is better than leaving a friend. Sampoerna is a cool friend."
Philip Morris International has also aggressively fought measures to reduce tobacco use in Uruguay, Australia, Norway, Turkey and other countries. They have bullied countries by filing expensive lawsuits against strong tobacco control measures.
When Caeli Faisst — a high school senior and anti-tobacco activist who traveled from upstate New York to attend the shareholders meeting — asked Camilleri about the company's marketing tactics, he called the activists "ill-informed."
Faisst attended the meeting along with Megan Rogers. Both are members of Reality Check, New York's youth-led movement that works against tobacco marketing targeting kids. Faisst called Camilleri’s response "very cold."
"When we would give out the facts, (Camilleri) would discredit us, tell us we were mistaken or we were misinformed," she said.
But Camilleri's latest corporate spin can't obscure the facts: Philip Morris International is spreading death and disease around the world with its products, marketing and legal bullying.