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Philip Morris International Tells Indonesian Kids Cigarettes Are Worth Dying For

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
August 30, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC — Philip Morris International, the world's largest multinational tobacco corporation, never misses an opportunity to claim it is a changed and responsible company. But the company's actions continue to tell a different story. In the latest example, Philip Morris' Indonesian subsidiary, Sampoerna, has placed billboard advertisements that basically tell Indonesian kids that cigarettes are worth dying for, according to news reports and the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).

We join SEATCA in condemning these ads and in calling on Philip Morris/Sampoerna to pull down the ads and on the Indonesian government to take effective action to protect the health of its citizens from tobacco.

According to news reports, the ad uses the slogan, translated from Bahasa Indonesia, 'Dying is better than leaving a friend. Sampoerna is a cool friend.' It features two young men at the door of a moving bus holding on to a friend who is getting left behind. The clear implication is that cigarettes are a friend and worth the risk that they will kill you. It is one of the most offensive and cynical ads any tobacco company has introduced in years and shows a callous disregard for the millions of deaths cigarettes cause worldwide each year. It is hard to believe that even a cigarette company would call a friend a product that is projected to kill one billion people this century.

This ad is only the latest irresponsible action by Philip Morris International. At the company's annual shareholder meeting in May, CEO Louis Camilleri stated that, while cigarettes are addictive, 'it is not that hard to quit.' This statement is completely contradicted by the science and continues the tobacco industry's long history of distorting the addictiveness and health risks of its products. In recent years, Philip Morris International/Sampoerna has sponsored entertainment events in Indonesia that are aimed at youth, including A Mild Live Wanted, a popular music competition similar to 'American Idol.' As a member of an Indonesian association of cigarette manufacturers, Philip Morris International has participated in efforts to weaken and delay pending tobacco control regulations required by the national health law.

In addition, Philip Morris International is aggressively fighting various countries' efforts to implement measures to reduce tobacco use. For example, they have sued both Uruguay and Australia challenging strong tobacco control laws in both countries. In short, Philip Morris International continues to engage in marketing that appeals to kids, continues to mislead the public about the health risks of their products, and continues to fight effective solutions to reduce tobacco use. They are not changed or responsible.