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Despite Outrage, Philip Morris International Expands Global “Be Marlboro” Campaign

July 15, 2014


Despite international media criticism and widespread calls from public health groups and government officials to end its 'Be Marlboro' marketing campaign, Philip Morris International is doubling down and expanding its youth-oriented campaign around the globe.

A March 2014 report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health groups exposed how the campaign uses themes and images sure to appeal to youth. With the slogan 'Don’t be a Maybe. Be Marlboro,' the ads feature images of attractive young people falling in love, playing music, partying, and taking risks.

The ad campaign has been banned in Germany, where a court found that it targets children as young as 14.

The government of Colombia has also initiated an investigation into whether online 'Be Marlboro' videos violate the country's advertising laws.

Despite these investigations and protests, Philip Morris continues to expand the campaign. In a recent presentation to investors, Philip Morris stated, 'We will continue to roll-out our 'Be Marlboro' campaign and enrich it with new visuals and consumer engagement activities.' In other words, Philip Morris plans to make this already harmful campaign even more appealing to young audiences, without regard for the deadly consequences.

The tobacco giant has continued to roll out new ads and engage in youth-friendly marketing activities including 'Be Marlboro' mobile ads and ads at the point of sale — even near candy and youth-friendly treats. Ads from Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Japan and other countries were featured in the recent presentation to investors as 'Be Marlboro' Phase Two. The company proudly touts that the campaign can be adopted across countries and cultures.

Tobacco use — the world's leading cause of preventable death — kills nearly six million people worldwide each year and is projected to kill one billion people this century if current trends continue. Every day, 80,000 to 100,000 young people around the world become addicted to tobacco. Without urgent action by governments around the world to ban marketing campaigns like 'Be Marlboro,' more than 250 million children and young people alive today will die from tobacco-related diseases.