Reuters Exposes Massive Philip Morris Scheme to Fight Global Tobacco Control Efforts – Shows Company’s Claimed Commitment to a “Smoke-Free Future” is a Sham

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
July 13, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An investigative report published today by Reuters reveals a massive, secretive campaign by tobacco giant Philip Morris International to undermine the global tobacco control treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and fight countries’ efforts to implement the life-saving measures called for by the treaty. This report shows that Philip Morris continues to do everything possible to throw roadblocks against efforts to reduce tobacco use and cannot be taken seriously when it claims to be committed to a “smoke-free future,” as the company has aggressively done in recent months. It is the height of hypocrisy for Philip Morris to proclaim publicly that it is helping solve the tobacco problem while it secretly wages all-out campaigns against efforts to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

Based on thousands of pages of leaked Philip Morris documents and interviews with current and former Philip Morris employees, Reuters documented “an offensive that stretches from the Americans to Africa to Asia, from hardscrabble tobacco fields to the halls of political power, in what may be one of the broadest corporate lobbying efforts in existence…. Taken as a whole, they present a company that has focused its vast global resources on bringing to heel the world’s tobacco control treaty.” The treaty obligates countries to adopt proven strategies to reduce tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws, advertising bans and large, graphic health warnings.

The Reuters investigation exposed both Philip Morris’ efforts to infiltrate and subvert global meetings on implementing the treaty, as well as its lobbying, lawsuits and other tactics aimed at defeating, weakening and delaying tobacco control measures in individual countries. A 2014 Philip Morris presentation published by Reuters reveals that to the tobacco giant “Roadblocks are as important as solutions.”

Philip Morris International is the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company and sells the best-selling Marlboro cigarette brand. But as part of a campaign to rebrand its image, the company has recently claimed to be working toward a “smoke-free future.”

The Reuters report follows a series of stories published this week by The Guardian, which detailed how British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International and other tobacco companies have fought tobacco control efforts throughout Africa. Taken together, the stories are a revealing exposé that show the tobacco companies have not changed, continue to say one thing in public while doing the exact opposite and cannot be trusted by governments or the public.

These investigations are timely reminders that Philip Morris and other tobacco giants will stop at nothing to undermine global progress in reducing tobacco use and maximize their profits. These reports should spur governments around the world to stand up to the tobacco industry and redouble their efforts to fully implement the proven strategies that reduce tobacco use and save lives. Tobacco use already claims seven million lives worldwide each year. Unless governments take strong action now, tobacco will kill one billion people this century.