6 May 2017:
Philip Morris International (PMI) just had its AGM in New York celebrating its $7.25 billion net earnings in 2016 for its stockholders. PMI’s 160 million customers, many of them long term smokers, contributed towards this profit.
PMI is reframing its identity to associate itself with a ‘solution’ riding on the ‘harm-reduction’ band wagon. It is even using the health community’s language of going “smoke-free”. In fact its website has been given a make-over which now says it is “Designing a Smoke-free Future”.
What does PMI’s ‘smoke-free’ mean? PMI wants its current smokers to switch from smoking combustible cigarettes to heating tobacco (IQOS). However, both are still addictive. In reality, the bulk of its $7.25 billion profits are from selling regular cigarettes. Sales of Marlboro brands continue to increase, especially in Asia.
PMI’s annual report cites Philippines as an important profit base. Its cheap brands, Fortune and super-low priced Jackpot both lost market share in the Philippines in 2016. Philippines increased tobacco tax as part of its tax reform and about 1 million smokers quit smoking.
In 1954 the former Chairman and CEO of Philip Morris said, “If we had any thought or knowledge that in any way we are selling a product harmful to consumers, we would stop business tomorrow. More than six decades later, PMI has no remorse in continuing to sell billions of addictive, harmful cigarettes making a gross profit of $17.29b. It is even proud to be the world No.1 tobacco company.
Make no mistake, in developing countries where PMI operates and makes huge profits such as Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, it is business as usual. PMI has no intentions whatsoever of stopping the sales of its regular cigarettes which releases 7,000 chemical compounds many of which are carcinogens.
Tobacco use in the ASEAN region burdens national economies to the tune of more than $10 billion annually from tobacco related diseases and premature deaths. PMI’s profits increased from $7.03 billion in 2015 to USD 7.25 billion in 2016.
At the AGM, PMI said it has to “… answer questions that are a legitimate concern for the public health community and are related to changes in youth initiation, smoking prevalence, gateway to cigarettes, relapse, quitting rates, dual usage, as well as epidemiology.”
A nice rhetoric, but the fact remains PMI has broken all basic consumer rules by continuing to sell its harmful cigarettes that cause disease and death to its customers, and won’t take responsibility for its lies, nor compensate the harm it has caused and continue to cause.
Offering less harm, while still causing so much harm is unacceptable!