Philip Morris International: “Smoke-Free” Campaigns

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Philip Morris International has run various ‘smoke-free’ campaigns promoting its newer nicotine and tobacco products, focussed on its heated tobacco product (HTP) IQOS.

Researchers at Stanford University called these campaigns “propaganda crusades”.1

PMI also funds the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), although in October 2023 PMI terminated its pledge to fund FSFW in the future, leaving it with a final grant of US$122.5 million.2

“Hold My Light” Campaign

Image 1: The Hold My Light campaign website3

In October 2018, PMI spent UK£2 million on the “Hold My Light” campaign in the UK (Image 1). The campaign centres on encouraging smokers to “quit” for 30 days. Alongside traditional cessation products, however, the website includes links to PMI’s e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs). In the case of HTPs, the website relies on PMI’s own market research when making the claim that “7 in 10 smokers using heated tobacco stop using cigarettes completely”.3 The campaign appeared in online, TV and print ads, and attracted criticism from Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) UK.4 A report by STOP, released in February 2020, suggested that this campaign was “a way for the tobacco industry to circumvent tobacco marketing restrictions in the UK and let everyone know about [PMI’s] alternative products” as well as “a deliberate attempt by PMI to piggy back HTPs onto the relative acceptability of e-cigarettes as a form of harm reduction in some countries that permit their sale”.5

“Unsmoke Your World” Campaign

Image 2: The Unsmoke Your World campaign website6

In June 2019, PMI launched the website as part of the “Unsmoke Your World” global online public relations and marketing campaign (Image 2).7 This website encourages visitors to “join the journey” to quitting cigarettes and nicotine through performing “Unsmoke Actions”. These actions appear to consist of uploading images, sharing gifs and using the hashtag “#unsmokeyourworld” on social media. The “Get Involved” page of the Unsmoke Your World website includes links to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles for the campaign as well as a newsletter sign-up.8

“White Papers”

PMI has also released several what it terms “white papers” through the UnSmoke website. The first, “Public Health – Much Harder than Rocket Science”, was launched in January 2019 at the World Economic Forum in Davos9 and the second, “Unsmoke – Clearing the Way for Change”, was published in August of the same year on the Unsmoke website.10 In response to the publication of the second paper, leading medical journal The Lancet published an editorial calling the campaign a “duplicitous” and “nonsensical…corporate manoeuvre”.1112 PMI released a third white paper in January 2020, called “Unsmoke Your Mind: Pragmatic Answers to Tough Questions for a Smoke-Free Future” in collaboration with consulting firm Povaddo.13

Image 3: PMI’s website hosts a series of articles under the “It’s Time” initiative, including this one in which the company directly addressing tobacco control policy and urges policy makers to “embrace the opportunity offered by better alternatives to continued smoking” – their own smoke-free products.14

The campaign, which has been launched internationally, has attracted criticism. Business Day in South Africa reported in February 2020 that an article sponsored by Philip Morris South Africa (PMSA) in several newspapers promoting its “Unsmoke” campaign was in violation of the country’s tobacco control laws. The Tobacco Control Act of 1993 stipulates a ban on all direct and indirect advertising of tobacco products including print, radio, TV and event sponsorship and came into effect in January 2009.15 The Global Center for Good Governance in tobacco control (GGTC) released a report in August 2019 condemning the campaign as “misleading” and that it “must be exposed as another tobacco industry tactic and de-normalized”.16

“It’s Time” Campaign

PMI also launched the “It’s Time” campaign in May 2019 at the Future of Everything Festival.17 Unlike “Hold My Light” and “Unsmoke”, however, this campaign is targeted at decision-makers rather than the general public (see image 5). Though most public health experts and policymakers do not engage with the tobacco industry, PMI is “intent on using its smoke-free rhetoric to gain access to policy debates”.5

“Futuro sin Humo” campaign in Mexico

Futuro sin Humo (Smoke-free Future in English) is a Philip Morris International initiative18 from its Mexico office to promote their line of Next Generation Products. The initiative was launched in 2018, along with the hashtag #futurosinhumo, which translates into “smoke-free future”. Its website describes the campaign as wanting to:

“inform and give voice to smokers and their over-18 years old relatives who are interested in the non-combustion alternatives that are now available in many other countries. We are sure that smokeless products are a better choice for smokers and their introduction in Mexico must be preceded by a debate that includes all stakeholders and is based on scientific evidence.”19

  • For more information about the campaign and its use of celebrities, social media marketing and sports events see Futuro sin Humo.

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  1. R.J.Jackler, Propaganda Crusades by Philip Morris International & Altria: “Smoke-Free Future” & “Moving Beyond Smoke” Campaigns Exposing the Hypocrisy of the Claim: “A Tobacco Company That Actually Cares About Health”, 2 March 2022, available from
  2. FSFW, Final grant agreement and termination of second amended and restated pledge agreement, FSFW website, 29 September 2023, accessed October 2023
  3. abPhilip Morris Limited, Hold My Light, Hold My Light website, undated, accessed February 2020
  4. M. Geller, Philip Morris stop-smoking campaign attacked as PR stunt, Reuters online, 22 October 2018, accessed February 2020
  5. abStopping Tobacco Organizations and Products, Addiction At Any Cost: Philip Morris International Uncovered, STOP report, 20 February 2020,accessed February 2020
  6. Philip Morris Products S.A., Unsmoke Your World, Unsmoke Your World website, undated, accessed February 2020
  7. Philip Morris International, PMI Launches Online Hub Offering Inspiration to “Unsmokers”, press release, PMI website, 13 June 2019, accessed February 2020
  8. Philip Morris International, Get Involved, Unsmoke Your World website, undated, accessed January 2020
  9. Philip Morris International, Davos 2019: Rethinking how to address global health issues, PMI website, 22 January 2019, accessed February 2020
  10. Philip Morris International, Misinformation, Lack of Access and Confusion Hamper the Ability of Smokers Who Don’t Quit to Consider Better Alternatives, a New International Study from PMI Shows, PMI website, 20 August 2019, accessed February 2020
  11. Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products, Addiction At Any Cost: Philip Morris International Uncovered, STOP report, 20 February 2020,accessed February 2020
  12. The Lancet Editorial, Philip Morris International: money over morality?, The Lancet online, 31 August 2019, accessed February 2020 (paywall)
  13. Philip Morris International, PMI releases “Unsmoke Your Mind: Pragmatic Answers to Tough Questions for a Smoke-Free Future”, PMI website, 21 January 2020, accessed February 2020
  14. Philip Morris International, Why can’t we talk about our better alternatives?, PMI website, undated, accessed February 2020
  15. S. Kalideen and S. Nyatsanza, Philip Morris in breach of SA’s tobacco law with sponsored campaign, Business Day, 12 February 2020, accessed February 2020
  16. Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, Dangers of the “Unsmoke” Campaign: Frequently Asked Questions, GGTC website, 15 August 2019, accessed February 2020
  17. Philip Morris International, PMI launches It’s Time campaign at Future of Everything Festival, PMI website, 20 May 2019, accessed February 2020
  18. Phillip Morris Mexico, Preguntas Frecuentes, 2018, accessed April 2019
  19. Futuro Sin Humo website, Futuro Sin Humo, 2018, accessed April 2019