Tobacco firm Philip Morris accused of ‘staggering hypocrisy’ over UK anti-smoking campaign

23 October 2018:
By Alex Matthews-King
Source: Independent

World’s largest tobacco firm continues to market cigarettes abroad while running quitting campaign in UK, say charities

One of the world’s largest cigarette and tobacco companies has been accused of “staggering hypocrisy” by cancer charities after launching a campaign to help smokers quit.

The “Hold my Light” campaign is a major UK advertising push by tobacco firm Philip Morris. It said the campaign is an “important next step” in the company’s path to “ultimately stop selling cigarettes“.

The firm is no longer able to advertise its Marlboro cigarettes directly in Britain because of the UK advertising ban on tobacco products. 

But charities claimed the move was just a way to circumvent tobacco advertising laws and to promote its range of smoking alternatives, including e-cigarettes and “heat not burn” tobacco products.

Earlier in 2018 the company attracted criticism from the Government for writing to NHS trusts and offering to provide cigarette alternatives to staff to help them quit.

George Butterworth, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This is a staggering hypocrisy from a tobacco company to promote its own smoking cessation products in the UK, while continuing to promote tobacco cigarettes across the world.

“The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes.

“Smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer and we encourage people to switch away completely from smoking, including through the use of e-cigarettes.

Stop smoking charity ASH, pointed out that Philip Morris International was one of a consortium of tobacco companies which lost a legal challenge aimed at blocking laws on plain packaging for cigarettes.

The group’s director of policy, Hazel Cheeseman added: “This campaign is simply PR puff.

“A massively profitable global tobacco company is selling the line that they’ve turned over a new leaf in an effort to flog their latest gadgets.

“If they were serious about a smokefree world they wouldn’t challenge tobacco legislation around the world but instead support regulations that will really help smokers quit and prevent children from taking up smoking.”

The campaign aims to help people go smoke free for 30 days, emphasising the need for peer support from friends and family.

Peter Nixon, managing director of Philip Morris Limited, said: “There are more options than ever before for smokers to give up cigarettes but often they don’t realise that alternatives, like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco are a better choice than continuing to smoke.

“Our research has shown that smokers want personal support from friends and family if they are to give up cigarettes – and that is what Hold My Light is designed to offer.”