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September 13, 2017

If Philip Morris is Serious About a Smokefree World, It Should Quit Tobacco Today

(New York, USA) Vital Strategies has responded to today’s announcement from Philip Morris International Inc (PMI) that it intends to set up a “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World” in 2018, with the following statement from José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies:

“Consumers and governments shouldn’t fall for Philip Morris International’s bogus ‘investment in a healthier world’. The tobacco industry is the world’s leading killer industry, bar none, and today’s announcement is nothing more than a cynical public relations move. They seek to regain a mask of respectability for their killer products and unethical business practices, which has been proven over decades – and in recent exposés – to include just this type of deceptive marketing.

“PMI’s  2016 Annual Report shows their true priorities –  the vast majority of the effort, revenues, profits and brand equity are tied to combustible tobacco. The US$82 million they are committing annually to this new initiative is paltry compared to their US$6 billion annual investment in marketing, administration and research, primarily to sell deadly cigarettes.

“PMI’s claim to want a smoke free world is belied by their aggressive marketing of products that lead to illness, poverty and premature death. Eighty percent of that burden falls on people in low- and middle-income countries where people can least afford it.

“We’ve seen this script before – when the tobacco industry announces initiatives proclaiming it wants to reduce the health impacts of its deadly business, it really only promotes its products. It funds research to counter and denigrate independent health experts and research. And when its own experts’ research findings are unflattering, the research is not published, and even denied, until the industry is legally forced to reveal the truth.

Reuters’ recent exposé of internal documents show that Philip Morris has a specific corporate strategy of working to wrest the issue of tobacco control away from the health community. Today’s announcement undoubtedly reflects that strategy. And recent exposés by The Guardian have shown how PMI continues to work to thwart the adoption of proven tobacco control policies, like tobacco taxes and plain packaging, that reduce tobacco use.

“If PMI was serious about a smoke-free world, rather than profiting at the expense of children and other vulnerable people around the globe, it would quit the cigarette business today.”

Tobacco consumption, a leading preventable killer, is responsible for 7 million deaths per year. Without urgent action around the world to implement proven tobacco control measures, global tobacco-related deaths will continue to grow to a billion this century. Nearly 80 percent of the more than one billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is greatest. Without urgent action by governments around the world to implement proven tobacco control measures, global tobacco-related deaths will number one billion this century. Vital Strategies calls on all governments to fully implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and strongly enforce tobacco control policies to protect current and future generations from tobacco-related disease and premature death.

Notes from the UN Global Compact Board meeting where the decision was taken to exclude the tobacco industry are available here.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or tjohnston@vitalstrategies.org

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