Leaked PMI documents on illicit trade

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A new paper looks at leaked Philip Morris International (PMI) documents which suggest that the company may have intended to use third parties in the UK to promulgate arguments about standardised packaging and an increase the illicit tobacco trade. The paper, in the British Medical Journal, was co-authored by Dr Karen Evans-Reeves, Dr Jenny Hatchard, Andy Rowell and Prof Anna Gilmore from the University of Bath.

It found that two-thirds of newspaper articles (63%, 99/157) mentioned a PMI consultant; 36% of which did not disclose this industry funding. Most articles mentioned counterfeit tobacco, illicit whites or both (72%, 113/157), while few (4%, 7/157) specifically mentioned tobacco industry illicit tobacco and none explained that the latter can include tobacco-company involvement. Freedom of Information documents revealed that the PMI consultant sought to build relationships with Trading Standards officers, conducted undercover test purchases (UTPs) in illicit tobacco ‘hotspots’ and may have promoted unrepresentative findings in the media. While the data set featured PMI data predominantly, other TTCs also engaged in third-party techniques to promulgate messages on illicit tobacco.