Philip Morris Claims It Wants a Smoke-Free Future, So Why Is It Aggressively Marketing Cigarettes from Israel to Indonesia?

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
June 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With slogans like "smoke-free future" and "unsmoke your world," giant cigarette maker Philip Morris International has rolled out campaign after campaign to fool the public and policy makers into believing that it wants to get rid of cigarettes. But Philip Morris’ actions tell the real story: In country after country, from Israel to Indonesia, Philip Morris continues to aggressively market cigarettes, especially its best-selling Marlboros, and it does so in ways that appeal to kids.

Rather than helping create a smoke-free future, Philip Morris is encouraging and perpetuating the use of cigarettes, which kill 8 million people worldwide each year. In fact, Philip Morris sells over 740 billion cigarettes worldwide each year.

In the latest examples of the company’s hypocrisy, Philip Morris has launched youth-oriented advertising campaigns for Marlboro cigarettes in Israel and Indonesia. These ads pair the slogan “You Decide” with themes and imagery, like music and adventure, that appeal to young people. The campaign was created by Leo Burnett, Philip Morris’ longtime marketing agency and creator of the iconic Marlboro Man that made the brand so popular with young people.

  • In Israel, Philip Morris responded to increased taxes on cigarettes by slashing prices on Marlboro cigarettes and launching the “You Decide” marketing campaign. Advertisements for "Music Limited Edition" Marlboros feature three cigarette packs designed to look like boom box speakers with the tagline "What’s your sound? You decide." Subsequent ads featured the slogan "Sound up. Price down."
  • In Indonesia, the "You Decide" campaign for Marlboro is featured on billboards, including on the popular tourist island of Bali. The billboards pose the question “What’s next to discover? You decide” and feature trendy young models. The new ads follow Philip Morris’ recent launch of a new cigarette brand in Indonesia, called Philip Morris Bold. The brand launch included large billboards and television ads.

View images from the Marlboro ad campaigns in Israel and Indonesia.

The "You Decide" Marlboro ads use themes and imagery similar to those in Philip Morris’ “Be Marlboro” ad campaign, which was banned in Germany for targeting kids as young as 13 and was the subject of legal complaints in several countries. In Brazil, Philip Morris was fined nearly $500,000 following a complaint about the campaign.

Philip Morris’ latest ad campaigns further demonstrate that the company has zero credibility when it claims to be committed to a “smoke-free future.” In fact, the very opposite is true: Philip Morris’ main business is to market and sell cigarettes.

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. 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. (A recent Reuters investigation also exposed how Philip Morris aggressively markets its IQOS heated cigarettes on Instagram and other social media platforms, reaching millions of young people across the globe.)

To end the global tobacco epidemic and truly create a smoke-free future, we need strong action by governments, not empty promises from tobacco companies.