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Philip Morris Declares the “Year of Unsmoke,” But Launches New Cigarette in Indonesia and Sells Over 700 Billion Cigarettes a Year Worldwide

Statement of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and American Lung Association
April 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Doubling down on its campaign of deception, Philip Morris International – one of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers – recently launched “The Year of Unsmoke,” a follow-up to claims that it wants a smoke-free future. It is the height of hypocrisy for Philip Morris to act like it wants to rid the world of cigarettes at the same time that it is aggressively marketing cigarettes across the globe – especially in low- and middle-income countries – and fighting proven policies that reduce smoking and save lives.

The reality is that Philip Morris’ main business is still to sell deadly and addictive cigarettes, and it sells more than 700 billion of them worldwide each year, including the best-selling Marlboro (in 2018, Philip Morris sold 740 billion cigarettes, according to the company’s annual report).

In fact, just weeks before declaring “The Year of Unsmoke,” Philip Morris unveiled a new cigarette brand in Indonesia called “Philip Morris Bold.” While loudly proclaiming its commitment to a smoke-free future, Philip Morris is actually working to expand smoking in a country, Indonesia, with some of the world’s highest smoking rates and weakest tobacco control laws. Philip Morris products are a major cause of the 214,000 tobacco-related deaths in Indonesia each year. Philip Morris should be judged by its actions, not its words, and its actions show it is a primary cause of the global tobacco epidemic, not part of the solution.

According to a story by Bloomberg News, the Philip Morris Bold brand was registered in Indonesia in January. The brand launch included large billboards and television ads, featured imagery of London and introduced Philip Morris Bold as a “new international brand.” Philip Morris Bold is a kretek cigarette – a high-tar, high-nicotine clove cigarette popular in Indonesia. One pack of Philip Morris Bold costs just 85 cents (12,000 IDR).

When asked about the new cigarette brand, Philip Morris gave Bloomberg the pathetic excuse that it only launches new cigarette brands in countries where it is not selling its IQOS heated tobacco products. If Philip Morris was serious about creating a smoke-free world, it would not be launching new cigarette brands anywhere, let alone aggressively promoting its existing cigarette brands.

View marketing images for Philip Morris Bold.

Philip Morris’ aggressive promotion of cigarettes in Indonesia is far from isolated. In recent years, the company has touted to investors its “robust plans to grow [its] cigarette business” and “develop untapped markets” for cigarettes across Africa and the Middle East. Across the globe, Philip Morris promotes its cigarettes in ways that appeal to kids, marketing cigarettes on social media, introducing flavored cigarettes and conducting aggressive marketing near elementary schools.

It is also galling for Philip Morris to claim that it wants to create a smoke-free future while it fights proven strategies that can help achieve that goal. 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, prohibitions on tobacco advertising and graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.

Contrary to its claims to be a changed company, Philip Morris’ actions show it is focused on selling more cigarettes – not “unsmoking your world.”

Get the facts about Philip Morris International.