Philip Morris International

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Background

Philip Morris International (PMI) is the largest tobacco company in the world (excluding the Chinese National Tobacco Corporation).1 The company is headquartered in New York in the United States (US), but also based operationally in Lausanne, Switzerland and Hong Kong. According to the Associated Press, Altria decided to separate Philip Morris USA and its international operations in order to “clear the international tobacco business from the legal and regulatory constraints facing its domestic counterpart, Philip Morris USA”.2 In 2018, PMI and its subsidiaries sold its products in over 180 markets, selling cigarettes, other tobacco products and non-combustible nicotine-based products. The company reported in 2019 that it held 28.4% of the global market for cigarette and heated tobacco products excluding the US and China.3 The company owned six of the top 15 international cigarette brands in 2018. Its global cigarette brands are Marlboro (the world’s bestselling international brand), Merit, Parliament, Virginian S, L&M, Philip Morris, Bond Street, Chesterfield, Lark, Muratti, Next and Red & White. The company reported owning a market share of at least 15% or over in 100 countries in 2018, although in the UK PMI held only fourth position for cigarette market share behind Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and British American Tobacco (BAT).4 On 27 August 2019, global news outlets reported that PMI and Altria were considering a merger to reunite the brands that had split in 2007.567 However the merger was called off the next month, in response to news that the FDA was considering a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes.89 On March 21, 2018, PMI acquired Tabacalera Costarricense, S.A. and Mediola y Compañía, S.A. for USD$95 million, which sell Derby, Marlboro and L&M cigarettes in Costa Rica.3

Employees or Board Members: Past and Present

André Calantzopoulos was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of PMI in May 2013. A full list of the company’s leadership team can be accessed at PMI’s website. Other persons that currently work for, or have previously been employed with, the company:

Massimo Andolina | Chris Argent | Drago Azinovic | Werner Barth | Charles Bendotti | Frank de Rooij | Frederic de Wilde | | Marc S. Firestone | Stacey Kennedy | Martin King | Michael Kunst | Andreas Kurali | Bin Li | Marco Mariotti | Mario Massroli | Martin J. Barrington | David Bernick | Bertrand Bonvin | Harold Brown | Patrick Brunel | Mathis Cabiallavetta | Louis C. Camilleri | Andrew Cave | Herman Cheung | Kevin Click | John Dudley Fishburn | Jon Huenemann | Even Hurwitz | Jennifer Li | Graham Mackay | Sergio Marchionne | Kate Marley | Kalpana Morparia | Jim Mortensen | Lucio A. Noto | Jacek Olczak | Matteo Pellegrini | Robert B. Polet | Ashok Rammohan | Carlos Slim Helú | Julie Soderlund | Hermann Waldemer | Jerry Whitson | Stephen M. Wolf | Miroslaw Zielinski

Affiliations

Memberships

In 2019, PMI declared membership of the following organisations on the European Transparency Register:10

The American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union | American European Community Association (AECA) | American Chamber of Commerce of Lithuania | Ass. Industrial Portuguesa (AIP) | Business Europe | Centromarca | CEOE | Czech Association Branded Goods | Czech Foodstuff Chamber | Economiesuisse | Estonian Chamber of Commerce | European Communities Trademark Association (ECTA) | European Policy Centre (EPC) | Kangaroo Group | Latvian Chamber of Commerce | Latvian Traders Association | Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists | MARQUES | Spanish Tobacco Roundtable | VBO-FBE

PMI had previously listed memberships of: International Trademark Association (INTA) | The Trans-Atlantic Business Council (TABC) | | European Risk Forum | European Smokeless Tobacco Council (ESTOC) | British Chamber of Commerce | Public Affairs Council | APRAM | LES France | AmCham Germany | Bund fur Lebensmittelrecht & Lebensmittelkunde | Europaischer Wirtschaftssenat (EWS) | Wirtschaftsbeirat der Union e.V. | American Chamber of Commerce of Estonia | American Lithuanian Business Council | Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists | Investors’ Forum | AmCham Spain | Unindustria (Confindustria) | Consumer Packaging Alliance | British Brands Group | Foodstuff Chamber The company is also a donor to the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation (ECLT), alongside BAT, Imperial Brands, JTI and Swedish Match, among others.11

In May 2015, ECLT and the International Labour Organization (ILO) entered into an agreement to develop global guidance on occupational health and safety with regards to child labour in the tobacco industry.12 PMI was a member of the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers (CECCM), but left in 2006 following a dispute with other members.13

Consultancies

PMI has worked with numerous Public Relations (PR) and law consultancies:

Controversial Marketing Strategies

Since its controversial “Be Marlboro: Targeting the World’s Biggest Brand at Youth” campaign in 2014, PMI have been accused on multiple occasions of targeting their products at young people. On its website, PMI says that it is “committed to doing our part to help prevent children from smoking or using nicotine products”. 17 It further states that its “marketing complies with all applicable laws and regulations, and we have robust internal policies and procedures in place so that all our marketing and advertising activities are directed only toward adult smokers”.17 Despite these assurances, PMI has been accused of, and fined for, running marketing campaigns that target young people. For more information see Be Marlboro: Targeting the World’s Biggest Brand at Youth. PMI has increasingly used social media to market its next generation products (NGPs), including e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

  • For more information on PMI’s next generation products (NGPS), including IQOS, visit Next Generation Products: Philip Morris International and Heated Tobacco Products.

Complicity in Tobacco Smuggling

PMI portrays itself publicly as a victim of illicit tobacco trade, with the company reporting that tobacco smuggling results in “considerable financial losses” and “damage” to manufacturers’ brands.18 To help tackle illicit trade, PMI launched a funding initiative called PMI IMPACT in 2016, worth US$100m and aimed at bringing together “organisations that fight illegal trade and related crimes, enabling them to implement solutions”.1920 In its first call for proposals in 2016, PMI asked for “projects that have an impact on illegal trade and related crimes in the European Union…”21 The second call, made in 2017, expanded the areas of focus to include the Middle East, North Africa, South and Central America and South and Southeast Asia.22 For more information, visit our page on PMI IMPACT. In contrast to the company’s public persona of being part of the smuggling solution, evidence shows that the company was, in fact, part of the problem. In 2000, the European Commission (backed by a majority of EU member states) started court proceedings in the US Courts against PMI and other tobacco companies for its complicity in tobacco smuggling. The Commission claimed that the tobacco companies “boosted their profits in the past by deliberately oversupplying some countries so that their product could be smuggled into the EU”, costing the EU millions of euros in lost tax and customs revenue.2324 PMI and the Commission settled their dispute in 2004, when the company agreed to pay the Commission £675m to fund anti-smuggling activities.25 The two Parties signed an Anti-Counterfeit and Anti-Contraband Cooperation Agreement,26 referred to by the company as Project Star. As part of this agreement, PMI commissioned KPMG to measure annually the size of the legal, contraband and counterfeit markets for tobacco products in each EU Member States. Project Star’s methodology and data have been strongly criticised for lack of transparency, overestimating illicit cigarette levels in some European countries, and serving PMI’s interests over those of the EU and its member states.27

Tactics to Subvert Tobacco Control Campaigns and Policies

PMI has strongly opposed tobacco control legislation and regulations across the world, including plain packaging in Australia and the UK, the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), and tobacco control decrees in Uruguay. The company has used a variety of strategies and tactics to influence tobacco control policies and subvert existing regulations.

Funding Pro-Tobacco Research and Discrediting Independent Evidence

In response to plain packaging proposals in the UK, PMI funded research, expert opinion and public relations activities which supported its position. One of the people that PMI funded for this purpose was Will O’Reilly, a former Detective Chief Inspector with the London Metropolitan Police. O’Reilly was appointed as a PMI consultant in 2011,28 conducting undercover test purchases of illicit tobacco and publicising his findings in UK regional press.29 One of PMI’s arguments to oppose plain packaging was that the public health measure would lead to an increase in illicit tobacco, including counterfeited plain packs. For background on, and a critique of, this argument, go to Countering Industry Arguments Against Plain Packaging: It will Lead to Increased Smuggling. O’Reilly’s test purchases appear to have enabled PMI to secure significant press coverage of its data on illicit tobacco.30 In March 2019, Euromonitor International, a market research organisation, received funding through two PMI initiatives: the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and PMI IMPACT.313233 Examples of other organisations and individuals that have received funding from PMI to produce research or expert opinions or critiques of independent evidence, in order to oppose tobacco control legislation are: Deloitte | KPMG | Transcrime | Roy Morgan Research | Ashok Kaul | Michael Wolf | Populus | Centre for Economics and Business Research3435 | Compass Lexecon36 | Rupert Darwall37 | James Heckman38 | Lord Hoffman39 | Alfred Kuss40 | Lalive 41 | LECG424344 | London Economics | Povaddo45 | SKIM Consumer Research46

Using Freedom of Information Requests to Acquire Public Health Research Data

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests are one strategy that the tobacco industry uses to undermine tobacco control legislation, often covertly using third parties.47 In 2009, and again in 2011, PMI sent Freedom of Information requests to Stirling University (UK) requesting access to a wide range of data from its research on teenage smoking. PMI alleged that it wanted “to understand more about the research project conducted by the University of Stirling on plain packaging for cigarettes”.48 The FOI requests were eventually dropped. For more information on these FOI requests, and an explanation on how these requests impacted the University of Stirling, go to our page FOI: Stirling University.

Fabricating Support through Front Groups

PMI has used front groups to oppose tobacco control measures. Front Groups are organisations that purport to serve a public interest, while actually serving the interests of another party (in this case the tobacco industry), and often obscuring the connection between them. In Australia, leaked private documents revealed that the supposed anti-plain packaging retailer grass roots movement, the Alliance of Australian Retailers was set up by tobacco companies and that the Director of Corporate Affairs Philip Morris Australia, Chris Argent, played a critical role in its day-to-day operations.495051

Lobbying of Decision Makers

Article 5.3 of the The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) explicitly aims to reduce industry influence in public health policymaking by obliging parties to protect their health policies from tobacco industry interests and interference.52 Yet tobacco industry representatives, and third-parties regularly attempt to influence public health policymaking in the industry’s favour. This section details some of these incidents involving PMI and the response of the governments and the global health community.

EU

PMI reported that it spent between €1,250,000 and €1,499,999 in 2019 lobbying EU institutions, employing only 2 fulltime equivalent staff in its Brussels office.10 If this data is correct, it suggests that PMI relied heavily on external lobbying firms. A 2013 leaked internal PMI document revealed that the company had 161 lobbyists working to undermine the revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).53 The objective of PMI’s campaign was to either “push” (i.e. amend) or “delay” the TPD proposal, and “block” any so-called “extreme policy options” like the proposed point of sales display ban and plain packaging.54

UK

Image 1. Influencers’ diagram, PMI Corporate Affairs Update, March 2012 (slide 12)

The leaked internal PMI documents from 2013 also revealed the extent of a multi-faceted campaign against Plain Packaging in the UK, including a detailed media campaign using dozens of third parties (both individuals and organisations) to promote its arguments against the policy. The documents also included a detailed political analysis of potential routes of influence for the tobacco company (Image 1).28

One third party appointed in November 2011 to help PMI oppose the plain packaging proposal was the Crosby Textor Group. This appointment led to a conflict of interest scandal, given that Lynton Crosby co-Director of the Crosby Textor Group, was also the political election strategist for the UK’s Conservative Party, which was in power in the UK. David Cameron, then Prime Minister, insisted that Crosby never lobbied him about plain packaging. 5556 Despite a lack of evidence that Crosby lobbied the Prime Minister and Health Minister on plain packaging, documents released under FOI legislation, obtained by the University of Bath Tobacco Control Research Group, show that Crosby lobbied the UK Government on plain packaging via Lord Marland, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Intellectual Property, to oppose plain packaging. For more information on this lobbying scandal, go to Lynton Crosby’s page.

Australia

Australia has one of the least hospitable regulatory environments for the tobacco industry, having passed regulations banning advertising since 1976, a point of sale ban in 2011, and a plain packaging law in 2012. It also has regulation in place to prevent the sale of nicotine products, including e-cigarettes and HTPs.57

The industry has not, however, given up on attempting to market its products and lobby decision makers across the country. In a 2019 article, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Tammy Chan, Managing Director of PMI Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific wrote letters to health organisations urging them to enter into a “dialogue” on PMI’s “smoke-free” vision in the lead up to a parliamentary select committee meeting on the impact of e-cigarettes on “personal choice”.58

In March 2019, PMI was accused of “subliminal advertising” in its sponsorship of the Ferrari Formula One team during the Australian Gran Prix in Melbourne. PMI has been accused of attempting to evade advertising bans by sponsoring motorsports teams.

Latin America

José María Aznar, the former Prime Minister of Spain, has been widely reported by media outlets as having taken up a position as a lobbyist for PMI in Latin America.59606162

  • For more information on his meetings with public officials in Chile and Peru, as well as his history of association with the tobacco industry while in office, see our page on José María Aznar.

Intimidating Governments with Litigation or Threat of Litigation

Figure 1. Legal challenges made by PMI in the decade from 2008 to 2019.63

PMI has legally challenged tobacco control regulations across the globe, including:

  • Comprehensive No Smoking Ordinance (2010 and 2016) and Tobacco-Free Generation Ordinance (2016) in Balanga, Philippines. A front group for the world’s biggest tobacco companies, including PMI, called the Philippine Tobacco institute (PTI) sued the city of Balanga in August 2017 over the Comprehensive No Smoking Ordinance, which it argued was “arbitrary and oppressive” and cost PMI USD$420,000 a month in lost sales. In July 2018, regional courts ruled in PTI’s favour, noting that although the city’s tobacco control efforts were “commendable”, they were also unconstitutional. PTI launched another lawsuit in May 2018 to challenge the constitutionality of the city’s Tobacco-Free Generation Ordinance.58
  • The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Second Amendment Rules, 2018 text and pictorial health warnings law in India. PMI affiliate Godfrey Phillips India sought a stay of implementation of new legislation requiring health warnings to increase to cover 85% of the surface of cigarette packaging, from the High Court of Karnataka in Bangalore, India. The Court rejected the request for stay in August 2018. The legality of the Rules themselves was at the time pending in the Supreme Court.64
  • The May 20, 2016 Decree plain packaging law in France. In December 2016, the Conseil d’Etat (the Council of State, the highest administrative jurisdiction in France) dismissed a six-part legal challenge jointly brought against the plain packaging law by JTI, Philip Morris France, BAT France, a tobacco paper manufacturer and The National Confederation of Tobacco Retailers of France (Confédération Nationale des Buralistes de France).65
  • In 2013, the mayor of Popayán, a city in southwestern Colombia, issued a decree prohibiting tobacco sales within 500 metres of schools, libraries and health institutions. Following heavy lobbying from Coltabaco, a Philip Morris affiliate, the radius was decreased to 200 metres. Coltabaco sued Popayán in March 2015, arguing that a mayoral decree was insufficient to effect legitimate regulation. Coltabaco won its lawsuit in September 2015.66
  • The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 (UK). Following the passage of the legislation in March 2015, PMI and others launched a legal action, which it lost in May 2016 (the day before the legislation was due to come into force).6768
  • The 2014 EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). PMI and BAT attempted to invalidate the TPD as a whole, or various provisions within it, but this legal challenge was dismissed in the European Court of Justice in May 2016.69 More details can be found on the page TPD: Legal Challenges.
  • The Ministry of Public Health Notice of Rules, Procedures, and Conditions for the Display of Images, Warning Statements, and Contact Channels for Smoking Cessation on Cigarette Labels of 2013 (Thailand). In July 2013, Philip Morris Thailand and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) Thailand requested a temporary injunction against an increase of picture and text health warnings from 55 to 85 percent of the front and back of cigarette warnings. Though their request was initially granted in August 2013 in the Central Administrative Court of Thailand, the injunction was reversed in May 2014 by the Supreme Administrative Court following appeal by the government. PMI and JTI ultimately withdrew their legal challenge.70
  • Following heavy criticism of its “Be Marboro” campaign worldwide (see below), Germany banned PMI from displaying “Be Marlboro” advertising in the country. A German court overturned the ban in 2015, stating that the wording of the advertisements did not explicitly target younger than legal age smokers.71
  • National Systems of Health Oversight RDC No. 14/2012 Brazil. The Brazil Health Regulatory Agency’s (ANVISA) resolution No. 14 banned tobacco additives and flavours. The National Confederation of Industry (Confederação Nacional da Indústria) challenged the ban as an unconstitutional use of regulatory power. In February 2018, the highest court in Brazil, the Supreme Federal Tribunal, upheld the 2012 ban and reaffirmed the right of ANVISA to regulate tobacco products.72
  • The Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 (Australia). PMI fiercely opposed the legislation, fearing that it might set a global precedent. The company fought this legislation unsuccessfully on three fronts:
    • World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge: In 2014, PMI supported a request by the Dominican Republic government before the WTO Dispute Settlement Body, alleging that Australia’s plain packaging laws breach the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).73 Similar requests were submitted by Ukraine, Cuba, Indonesia and Honduras, and furthermore, a record number of more than 40 WTO members joined the dispute as third parties.74
    • Constitutional challenge: In March 2012, PMI supported a claim made by British American Tobacco (BAT) in December 2011 before the Australian High Court that plain packaging was in breach of the Australian constitution.75 On 15 August 2012, the Hight Court ruled that plain packaging was not in breach with the Australian constitution as there had been no acquisition of property as alleged by the tobacco companies.74
    • Bilateral Investment challenge: In 2011, PMI started legal proceedings against the Australian government for allegedly violating the terms of The Australia – Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty.76 In December 2015, The Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a unanimous decision that it had no jurisdiction to hear the claim. For more information on all three claims go to Australia: Challenging Legislation.
  • Executive Decree No. 611 passed on 3 June 2010 in Panamá. Philip Morris Panamá joined onto a claim of unconstitutionality brought by British American Tobacco (BAT) against a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) and tobacco product display at the point of sale. BAT Panama claimed the ban violated freedom of expression and property rights, among others. The Supreme Court ruled in May 2014 against BAT, noting that, among other things, freedom of expression could be restricted in order to protect public health.77
  • 2010 Amendment to the 1973 Act relating to the Prevention of the Harmful Effects of Tobacco (the Tobacco Control Act) in Norway. The Norwegian display ban on tobacco products came into effect on 1 January 2010 after an amendment was passed by the government in favour of the prohibition of visible tobacco products, smoking accessories and vending machines of tobacco products. PMI unsuccessfully challenged the ban as imposing a barrier to trade; the Oslo District court ruled in favour of the display ban in September 2012.78
  • Ordinance 514, dated 18 August 2008, and Decree 287/009 dated 15 June 2009 (Uruguay). PMI unsuccessfully challenged the Uruguayan Tobacco Control Act which included a mandate for 80% health warnings on tobacco packets. The case was decided in favour of public health in 2017.79 PMI brought its claim under the Switzerland-Uruguay Bilateral Investment Treaty at the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The tribunal ruled in favour of Uruguay in July 2016.80

Next Generation Products

Image 2. PMI, Our Manifesto: Designing a smoke-free future, screengrab of PMI website taken 12 March 2017.

To improve the tobacco industry’s longevity, tobacco companies are investing in tobacco and nicotine products that, unlike cigarettes, could have growth potential in developed markets. These products are often referred to as next generation products (NGPs) and are often linked to tobacco companies’ harm reduction strategies. In January 2017, PMI issued a press release which stated that the company intended to move its business away from combustible tobacco products entirely (see Image 2).81 The company’s much publicised vision for a “smoke-free” future is one in which PMI plays a central role in “[providing] better alternatives to smoking for those who don’t quit”.3 Integral to this vision was the release of IQOS in 2014. By 2016, PMI was the market leader in heated tobacco products (HTPs), accounting for over 99% of the global HTP market.63 By 2018, PMI’s share of the global HTP market had fallen to around 80%.6382 PMI reported that by the end of 2019, IQOS was available in 52 markets, including the United States (US), and a number of lower income countries.83

  • For more information on IQOS and PMI’s next generation products, see our pages on Next Generation Products: Philip Morris International and heated tobacco products. In April 2019, a life insurance company Reviti was launched. Registered in the UK at Companies House, Reviti is a wholly owned subsidiary of PMI.8485 The London-based company specialises in offering policies to smokers, with discounts for those who reduce or switch to PMI’s Next Generation Products.86

“Smoke-Free” Campaigns

Leaked internal documents in 2014 show that PMI’s stated intention to go “smoke-free” constitutes an essential part of its corporate agenda. In conjunction with its portfolio shift towards NGPs, PMI has launched a variety of public relations initiatives with the intention of promoting its products and “[establishing] PMI as a trusted and indispensable partner, leading its sector and bringing solutions to the table”.878863

In January 2018, PMI took out advertising space in several UK newspapers to announce that its New Years’ Resolution was to “give up cigarettes”.89 Although this event marked the first public announcement of PMI’s “smoke-free” agenda, it had been first hinted at by the establishment of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World in 2017.

Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

In September 2017, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World was formally launched at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum 2017, a tobacco-industry funded event.9091 The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World describes itself as “an independent, private foundation formed and operated free from the control or influence of any third party”, which “makes grants and supports medical, agricultural, and scientific research to end smoking and its health effects and to address the impact of reduced worldwide demand for tobacco”.9293 The Foundation is entirely funded by PMI to the tune of US$1 billion.92 Derek Yach leads the Foundation and is the former Head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Tobacco Free Initiative. He was also Senior Vice President of Global Health and Agriculture Policy at the global sugary drinks giant PepsiCo.94 Despite representing itself as a scientific research organisation, the Foundation spent more on public relations and lobbying (USD$7.6 million) than grants to fund research (USD$6.46 million) in 2018.95

“Hold My Light” Campaign

Image 3: The Hold My Light campaign website96

In October 2018, PMI spent UK£2 million on the “Hold My Light” campaign in the UK (Image 3). 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”96 The campaign appeared in online, TV and print ads, and attracted criticism from Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) UK.97 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”.63

“Unsmoke Your World” Campaign

Image 4: The Unsmoke Your World campaign website98

In June 2019, PMI launched the unsmokeyourworld.com website as part the “Unsmoke Your World” global online public relations and marketing campaign (Image 4).99 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.100

“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 Davos101 and the second, “Unsmoke – Clearing the Way for Change”, was published in August of the same year on the Unsmoke website102. In response to the publication of the second paper, the leading medical journal The Lancet published an editorial calling the campaign a “duplicitous” and “nonsensical…corporate manoeuvre”.63103 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.15

Image 5: 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.104

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 2009.105 The Global Center for Good Governance in tobacco control (GGTC), a member of STOP, 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”.106

“It’s Time” Campaign

PMI also launched the “It’s Time” campaign in May 2019 at the Future of Everything Festival.107 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”.63

“Futuro sin Humo” campaign in Mexico

Futuro sin Humo (Smoke-free Future in English) is a Philip Morris International initiative108 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 a

“movement is 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.”109

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

Participation in Global Platforms to Rehabilitate Image

PMI has attempted to gain access to many high-level international events as a means of “rehabilitating its image and securing influence over global institutions and policy elites”. Since January 2019, PMI presence has been documented at:63

January 2019

  • World Economic Forum (WEF; Davos, Switzerland): PMI launched its first “white paper” to coincide with WEF. Though it was not an invited guest, PMI held a side-event co-hosted by the Wall Street Journal, and sponsored the Davos Playbook, Politico’s daily newsletter distributed to attendees.

June 2019

  • (Group of 20) G20 Summit (Osaka, Japan): PMI took out a two-page advertisement in The Japan Times promoting its corporate transformation and reiterating the need for dialogue between decision-makers and industry.
  • Cannes Lions International Film Festival of Creativity (Cannes, France): PMI attended Cannes to talk about alternative tobacco products and potentially recruit celebrity activists to its cause.110 In addition, PMI had its own schedule of events, hosted by actress Rose McGowan and rapper Wycliff Jean. It also spoke in the festival’s Good Track stream alongside organisations including Greenpeace and UN Women. The decision to include PMI on the Good Track was heavily criticised in the light of “the ethics of proclaiming a smoke-free philosophy while continuing to sell billions of cigarettes a year”.111112

October 2019

  • United Nations General Assembly (UNGA; New York City, USA): Though barred from participating directly in the UNGA, PMI hosted a parallel event at Concordia, a high-level event to foster partnerships between businesses, governments and UN agencies. In attendance were officials from the UN’s World Food Program, the UN Foundation and the World Bank as well as PMI’s Vice President of Global Partnerships and Cooperation, who spoke at the event. Bob Eccles, a paid PMI advisor, spoke at the UNGA during a side event on Exclusion and Engagement in Sustainable Investing.

TobaccoTactics Resources

Relevant Links

TCRG Research

References

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