Sick Joke: Philip Morris Repeats Call for Smoke-Free Future While It Aggressively Markets Cigarettes and Fights Efforts to Reduce Smoking Worldwide

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 30, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the world prepares to mark World No Tobacco Day on May 31, Philip Morris International is publishing ads repeating the company’s claimed commitment to a smoke-free future. Philip Morris is doubling-down on hypocrisy. At the same time that it claims to want a smoke-free future, Philip Morris is aggressively marketing cigarettes across the globe – especially in low- and middle-income countries – and fighting proven policies that reduce smoking and save lives. 

It is a sick joke for Philip Morris to say that “we should promote every day as World No Smoking Day,” when the company’s primary mission every day is to sell more deadly cigarettes. Philip Morris’ claims should be seen for what they are: A PR stunt to hide the fact that Philip Morris remains a primary cause of the global tobacco epidemic, not part of the solution. 

Here are the facts about Philip Morris International:

Despite its claimed commitment to a smoke-free future, Philip Morris makes most of its revenue from selling cigarettes, brags that it sells the world’s best-selling cigarette brand (Marlboro), and works aggressively to expand the global cigarette market, touting to investors the company’s “robust plans to grow [its] cigarette business.” Across the globe, Philip Morris promotes its cigarettes in ways that appeal to kids, introducing flavored cigarettesconducting aggressive marketing near elementary schools, and sponsoring race cars and concerts. In 2016, a senior company executive touted Philip Morris’ efforts to “develop untapped markets” for cigarettes across Africa and the Middle East. These are not the actions of a company that wants a smoke-free future.

It is also galling for Philip Morris to say that global smoking rates are not falling fast enough when the company itself has led the fight against proven strategies that can accelerate progress. A 2017 investigative report by Reuters revealed a massive, secret campaign by Philip Morris to undermine the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, depicting “a company that has focused its vast global resources on bringing to heel the world’s tobacco control treaty.” From Australia to Uruguay to Thailand, Philip Morris has filed expensive lawsuits that challenge strong tobacco control laws and seek to intimidate countries into inaction. If Philip Morris was serious about a smoke-free future, it would actively support rather than fight these proven strategies, including significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, tobacco advertising bans and graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.

Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people worldwide each year and is projected to kill a billion people this century. To end this terrible epidemic and truly create a smoke-free future, we need strong action by governments, not empty promises from tobacco companies.