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Drastic Price Decrease Threatens to Increase Youth Smoking Rates in Senegal

December 05, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC — In a move sure to increase tobacco use among youth, Philip Morris International (PMI) has announced that it will lower the price of its most popular cigarette brand, Marlboro, by nearly 40 percent in Senegal.

Senegal suffers from alarming smoking rates, with nearly one out of every three adults and an estimated 20 percent of youth already smoking.

The effects on youth of lowering tobacco prices are staggering, with studies showing that youth — more than adults — respond to decreased prices on tobacco products. In the early 1990's, PMI used similar tactics in the United States and lowered the price of Marlboro, the brand most preferred by teens. The results were catastrophic as youth smoking rates in the U.S. soared to more than 36 percent following the price decrease. Currently, 80,000 to 100,000 young people around the world become addicted to tobacco each day. If current trends continue, 250 million children and young people alive today will die from tobacco-related diseases.

'It is imperative that Senegal's government take action to counter PMI's price ploy by increasing the taxes on tobacco products,' said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 'Higher taxes are particularly effective in reducing tobacco use among vulnerable populations, such as youth and low-income smokers. Higher cigarette prices are scientifically proven to prevent young people from starting to smoke and encourage smokers to quit.'

An increase in tobacco prices by 10 percent decreases tobacco consumption by about 8 percent in low- and middle-income countries. A price increase of 10 percent would reduce the number of smokers by 42 million worldwide and save 10 million lives. With smoking rates among both youth and adults already soaring in Senegal, the country cannot afford PMI's latest maneuver to help replace the smokers who die each year from tobacco-related diseases.

In a transparent attempt to convince policy makers and the public that it is a responsible corporation, PMI spokespeople often say that youth should not use tobacco, and that tobacco should only be used by adults making an informed choice. Unfortunately, PMI's attempts to hook youth on tobacco through tactics like sports and concert sponsorships, free giveaways to youth — and the recent price drop in Senegal — show its true intentions.