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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2705

Serious about a "Smoke-Free Future," stop marketing cigarettes - stop interfering tobacco control policies!

By Manjari Peiris

The world's largest non-governmental cigarette manufacturer, Philip Morris International has launched a new website which claims the company is committed to a "smoke-free future", say Matthew L. Meyers, the President of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Robin Koval, CEO and President of the Truth Initiative of Washington DC.

As long as Philip Morris continues to do everything it can to fight proven policies and programs that reduce smoking and continues to aggressively market cigarettes around the world, often in ways that appeal to children, their claims do not deserve to be taken seriously, Meyers affirms.

The statement jointly issued by Meyers and Koval further point out that if Philip Morris is truly committed to a smoke-free future, it should immediately take two steps, viz. actively support the policies to reduce cigarette smoking that are endorsed by the public health community and an international public health treaty, the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and set an example for the tobacco industry by stopping all marketing of cigarettes. "Until Philip Morris takes these steps, its purported commitment to a smoke-free future should be seen as yet another public relations stunt aimed at repairing the company's image and not a serious effort to reduce the death and disease caused by its products." Meyers confirmed.

The two tobacco control experts say that Philip Morris International's claims are inconsistent with the its current behavior due to the following reasons;

The company continues to lobby against effective measures such as higher tobacco taxes, graphic health warnings and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

In recent years, it has filed numerous legal challenges to strong tobacco control laws adopted by Australia, Uruguay and other countries. "If it is serious about creating a smoke-free future, Philip Morris must stop opposing these measures and instead actively and publicly support them."

Further, Philip Morris continues to aggressively market cigarettes around the world, often in ways that appeal to kids and much of it is targeting low-and middle-income countries that can least afford the burden of tobacco-related death and disease.

Citing a recent example, Philip Morris launched a global marketing campaign for its best-selling Marlboro cigarettes, called "Be Marlboro” that uses themes and images that appeal to youth.

This campaign, which has been rolled out in over 60 countries, features young people partying, falling in love, playing music and engaging in risky behavior. In many countries, Philip Morris and its subsidiaries have introduced flavored cigarettes that appeal to youth, conducted aggressive marketing near elementary schools, sponsored race cars and concerts, and engaged in other youth-oriented marketing.

This statement also points out that this wasn't the first time Philip Morris had stated a commitment to ending cigarette sales, but every prior announcement was nothing more than a smokescreen to enable it to continue business as usual. It quotes, " In 1954, a Philip Morris vice president stated, "If we had any thought or knowledge that in any way we were selling a product harmful to our customers, we would stop business tomorrow." , unquote.

Similarly, "In 1997, Philip Morris CEO Geoffrey Bible said in a deposition that the company would halt production if presented with evidence that smoking causes lung cancer, stating he would 'shut it down instantly.'

This statement however states, "Yet today, cigarettes make up almost all of Philip Morris International's business and profits.

The two experts conclude, "We need strong action by governments to end this terrible epidemic which kills 6 million people worldwide each year and is projected to kill 1 billion this century. We need strong and urgent action to reduce tobacco use, but not empty promises from tobacco companies.

If Philip Morris International is seriously committed to a world free of traditional cigarettes, it should join with public health leaders across the globe in supporting the strongest possible policies and programs to make it happen."

- Asian Tribune -

Serious about a "Smoke-Free Future," stop marketing cigarettes - stop interfering tobacco control policies!
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