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Philip Morris International CEO Claims It Isn't Hard to Quit Smoking – Comment is Irresponsible and Contradicted by Science

Statement by Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 11, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC (May 11, 2011) – According to a report by the Associated Press, Philip Morris International CEO Louis Camilleri today stated at the company's annual shareholder meeting in New York that, while cigarettes are addictive, 'it is not that hard to quit.' This is a highly irresponsible, self-serving and scientifically inaccurate statement by Philip Morris International, the world's largest multinational tobacco company. This statement continues the tobacco industry's long history of denying or downplaying the addictiveness and health risks of its products. It echoes the infamous testimony of major tobacco industry executives before Congress in1994, all of whom stated under oath that they believed 'nicotine is not addictive.' Mr. Camilleri's statement also shows that Philip Morris International truly has not changed despite its claims of being a reformed and responsible company.

Numerous scientific authorities have found that nicotine is highly addictive and that it is very difficult to quit smoking:

  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 'Nicotine dependence is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States. Research suggests that nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol. Quitting smoking is difficult and may require multiple attempts.'

  • According to the U.S. Public Health Service, 'Tobacco dependence is a chronic disease that often requires repeated intervention and multiple attempts to quit.' Studies have found that more than 70 percent of the 46 million smokers in the U.S. report that they want to quit, and about 45 percent report that they try to quit each year. However, only 4 to 7 percent of them are successful.

  • According to the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin, most smokers and users of chewing tobacco attempt to quit 5 to 7 times before quitting for good.

It is stunning in the face of such overwhelming scientific evidence for the leader of the world's largest private tobacco company to deny how addictive and difficult to quit cigarettes truly are.

In fact, the tobacco companies' own internal documents show that they have long recognized that nicotine is powerfully addictive. A 1982 memo by a Philip Morris researcher, stated, 'Nicotine is a potent pharmacological agent. Every toxicologist, physiologist, medical doctor and most chemists know that. It's not a secret.' (more quotes available). In her 2006 ruling finding that major U.S. cigarette companies violated civil racketeering laws, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler found that cigarette manufacturers have long concealed research data and other evidence about the addictiveness of nicotine and that 'Defendants have falsely denied that they can and do control the level of nicotine delivered in order to create and sustain addiction.'

Mr. Camilleri's statement comes as Philip Morris International has tried to portray itself as a changed and responsible company even as it aggressively targeted new markets in low and middle-income countries and it stepped up efforts to defeat and undermine proven measures to reduce tobacco use. For example, Philip Morris has tried to bully Uruguay into weakening its strong tobacco control laws by filing a lawsuit claiming that Uruguay's laws violate an investment treaty. It has used similar tactics in other countries, while in others it has funded front groups, given money to governments and charities, and engaged in other tactics to buy influence and block action to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

Mr. Camilleri's statement today sends a clear message to governments around the world that they must take effective action to reduce tobacco use and reject all efforts by Philip Morris International and other tobacco companies to undermine such action. Philip Morris International's statement today is a powerful reminder that its only interest is to boost profits by selling more of its deadly and addictive products.