A group of health organizations says Philip Morris International - one of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers – is engaging in a “campaign of deception” by saying one thing and doing another.
The company recently introduced a new cigarette brand in Indonesia just weeks before announcing “The Year of Unsmoke,” a follow-up to claims that it wants a smoke-free future. Philip Morris Bold is being advertised to Indonesian consumers through large billboards and TV ads. Indonesia has some of the world’s highest smoking rates and weakest tobacco control laws. 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).
The "height of hypocrisy"
In a joint statement, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and American Lung Association said: “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.”
Philip Morris sells more than 700 billion of cigarettes worldwide each year, including the best-selling Marlboro (in 2018, Philip Morris sold 740 billion cigarettes, according to the company’s annual report).
The statement noted that, “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.
“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.”
Developing untapped markets for cigarettes
The joint statement says that Philip Morris s’ 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.
The health organizations also accuse Philip Morris of fighting strategies that could actually help achieve a “smoke free” 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.