Philip Morris International (PMI), the maker of cigarette brands like Marlboro, Chesterfield, L&M, Benson & Hedges and Virginia Slims, announced that it would fund a new non-profit organization aimed at eliminating smoking…cigarettes.

According to news sources, PMI says it will contribute approximately $80 million dollars a year for twelve years to the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

"A better choice"

The company’s CEO, André Calantzopoulos, called the foundation an opportunity “to significantly change the health trajectories of the millions of men and women who continue to smoke by offering them a better choice."

That “better choice,” according to business analysts: e-cigarettes – a growing and increasingly profitable product segment for PMI, which has seen a drop recently in the sales of conventional cigarettes.

Although e-cigarettes have been promoted in some quarters as a healthier alternative to cigarettes,  there are no long-term studies to back up those claims, says the National Center for Health Research.

Impossible to determine

According to the Center’s website:

“Cancer takes years to develop, and e-cigarettes were only very recently introduced to the United States. It is almost impossible to determine if a product increases a person’s risk of cancer or not until the product has been around for at least 15-20 years. Despite positive reviews from e-cigarette users who enjoy being able to smoke them where regular cigarettes are prohibited, very little is known about their safety and long-term health effects.”

Studies which have been done to date have found the following substances in various brands of e-cigarettes: a toxic compound found in antifreeze, tobacco-specific compounds that have been shown to cause cancer in humans and formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde was found in several of the e-cigarette cartridges at levels much higher than the maximum EPA recommends for humans.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) isn’t buying PMI’s effort to portray itself as concerned about public health.

Deadly playbook

"It is a new twist out of the tobacco industry’s deadly playbook, but nobody should be fooled,” said the ACA in a statement. “It’s a continuation of a decades-long effort to paint over tobacco’s role in spreading death and misery around the globe.”

The ACA calls the nearly $1 billion in total funding that PMI plans a “a drop in the bucket compared to the health costs of tobacco. In fact, it is a tiny fraction of the $300 billion in annual health and related costs due to tobacco in the United States.

"If Philip Morris International is serious about ending the epidemic of smoking-caused illness, it has the power to do it: Stop selling cigarettes. Stop spending billions to market cigarettes. Stop suing governments around the world. And stop fighting every meaningful, evidence-based tobacco control effort."