Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) has been making headlines with bold announcements including spending significant funds to establish an anti-smoking foundation.
Makers of Marlboro and one of the biggest tobacco companies, PMI commits to the allocation of $1 billion to start a foundation that will attempt to combat smoking. PMI are also claiming to commit a further $80 million annually towards the foundation for the next 12 years.
In the boldest statement of the recently released news by PMI, the company is evidently attempting to convince the public they are serious about smoking rates with an anti-smoking foundation.
PMI Looking To The Future
PMI made headlines in 2016 when Andre Calantzopoulos, the company’s CEO, said their goal is, “to work with governments towards the “phase-out” of conventional cigarettes”.
Moreover, Peter Nixon, the PMI Managing Director for UK and Ireland had said, “We want to move towards a smoke-free future and a lot of that is incentivizing people to move across from cigarettes to something that is less harmful.”
It’s clear that PMI is not only looking into new technologies, but are also admitting that their business model isn’t sustainable or beneficial for future markets.
Their anti-smoking program, called the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, is set to be launched in 2018. Its aim is to fund research that will help analyze the impact of smoke-free alternatives, tracking and combating smoking rate statistics, as well as finding ways to help tobacco farmers cope with the reduced need of their crops.
The Foundation For A Smoke-Free World website goes on to list many facts about the products that PMI is still currently selling:
“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the world.”
“There is one death every six seconds from tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.”
“There are 7.2 million smoking-related deaths annually, killing more people than hiv/aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined.”
“Tobacco kills up to half of its users.”
“Nearly 70 percent of smokers want to quit.”
Recognition of the facts is a great first step in the right direction. However, there is a lot of work to do in order to truly make their cause justifiable. An anti-smoking foundation is a start, but it’s not enough to combat the continued sale of analog cigarettes.
Should We Trust Big Tobacco?
The old saying, “Actions speak louder than words” comes to mind when looking at all of the recent news surrounding PMI.
Naturally, skepticism comes with the territory when you hear a big tobacco company talking about phasing out analog cigarettes. Considering that big tobacco companies have been developing ENDS since 1963, it’s rather hard to imagine that they have the best interests of the public at heart.
Only with the rise of vaporizers, when their businesses are being threatened, are they responding – despite having the technology for decades.
So why now?
Make no mistake, the intentions of Phillip Morris’s recent actions are a direct response to the shifting of the market for tobacco-related products. Philip Morris wants to be sure their harm reduction product, the iQOS, has plenty of market visibility.
It seems PMI have jumped on the non-combustible bandwagon…finally.
“The tobacco industry has a terrible track record of funding research designed to support its efforts to block policies to cut smoking,” said chief executive of London-based Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Deborah Arnott. “Tobacco industry claims can never be accepted at face value.”
There are a lot of words, but will the actions back it up?
Smokeless Alternatives, Big Tobacco and the PMI Anti-Smoking Foundation
The iQOS device is a smokeless alternative to combustible stogies. Tobacco leaves, known as Heets or HeatSticks, are heated and vaporized. They offer refills which look like cut-off cigarettes that are inserted into the device and are heated.
The iQOS will be sold under the Marlboro brand for approximately the same price as their combustible counterparts.
PMI is insistent on pointing out the fact that they really want to become a sustainable business and stop selling cigarettes. ‘We are absolutely serious – one day we want to stop selling cigarettes,’ said Peter Nixon earlier this year.
While this is a romantic notion, there is no set time-frame for PMI to stop selling cigarettes, and at this point, it seems like a dream rather than a reality.
The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World aims to fund research and track progress towards eliminating smoking. However, this data is being collected in part due to the products they will still have on the market.
The foundation is poised to be led by Derek Yach, a former World Health Organization (WHO) official who was directly involved in the global tobacco treaty.
Let us know your thoughts on the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, PMI’s new market strategy and the future of Big Tobacco on our Facebook page.