Danish Institute of Human Rights tells PMI – “Stop production & marketing of tobacco”

1 June 2017:

The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR), a quasi-state body, was asked by Philip Morris International (PMI) last year to enter into a collaboration to establish a human rights implementation plan. The DIHR completed the task and has delivered a strong message to PMI to stop production and marketing of tobacco. The DIHR’s conclusion:

According to the UNGPs [United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights]companies should avoid causing or contributing to adverse impacts on human rights. Where such impacts occur, companies should immediately cease the actions that cause or contribute to the impacts. Tobacco is deeply harmful to human health, and there can be no doubt that the production and marketing of tobacco is irreconcilable with the human right to health. For the tobacco industry, the UNGP therefore require the cessation of the production and marketing of tobacco.”

DIHR’s full statement can be found here. The DIHR has since ended their engagement with PMI. Allan Lerberg Jørgensen, Department Director, Human Rights and Development with the DIHR, stated they hoped their “input will enable PMI to better understand how the corporate responsibility to respect human rights applies to their business and take the necessary action.” 

When announcing the collaboration last  year PMI said, DIHR is a “global leader on human rights and business” and that, “We expect to learn from DIHR’s expertise and at the same time get valuable third party input to help guide us as we develop a more systematic, rights-based approach in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

Now that PMI has heard directly from DIHR, will it act on the recommendation and cease tobacco production and marketing? Don’t hold your breath for PMI to take DIHR’s recommendation seriously.

Unfairtobacco.org remind us what PMI’s then Vice President had said in 1954, “If we had any thought or knowledge that in any way we were selling a product harmful to consumers, we would stop businesstomorrow”. Despite 60 years of evidence on harms caused by smoking and 100 million deaths in the 20thCentury, PMI has no intentions to stop making and marketing its lethal product.

Where does business ethics stand when PMI is so addicted to making $7 billion profits a year? Although PMI’s cigarettes kill half its customers prematurely, it claims to respect human rights. PMI uses third parties to white wash its harmful business.

Action on Smoking & Health US, concurs with DIHR saying, The sale of cigarettes is irreconcilable with human rights.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council has endorsed the UNGPs that apply to all companies including tobacco companies.

Four international investment groups (Axa, Calpers, Scor and AMP Capital) have already sold or are selling their tobacco investments and have called on investors to quit the tobacco industry. The companies made this appeal on World No Tobacco Day.

Along with 50 other firms with investments totalling $3.8trillion, they have pledged “to openly support the tobacco control measures being taken by governments around the world”.