Tobacco industry corrective statements in US admit fraud and deception but fail to extend to the rest of the world

Bangkok, 24 November 2017: Corrective statements from Philip Morris USA and other tobacco companies will start to appear in the US media starting 26 November 2017. Tobacco companies aren’t making these statements voluntarily. They are compelled to tell the truth about their deadly products by a federal court that found them guilty in 2006 of violating racketeering laws and engaging in a decades-long conspiracy to deceive and defraud the public about the dangers of smoking and how they marketed to children.

The consent order, signed on 5 October for tobacco companies to implement the corrective statement advertisements, comes after 11 years of unnecessary delays, as tobacco company lawyers sought to water down the corrective statements and delay their implementation. These corrective statement ads will run in more than fifty newspapers for 6 months and in three major television networks in the US for one year. 

“Tobacco companies have the dubious reputation of telling lies and half-truths about their products. Although Big Tobacco has been forced to issue these long-overdue corrective statements in the US, it is business as usual for the rest of the world as tobacco companies continue their misleading advertisements and their opposition to and even court cases against governments that implement effective tobacco control measures,” said Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee, SEATCA Executive Director.

In the ASEAN Region, 500,000 people succumb to preventable tobacco-related diseases annually. Nearly 80% of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. Philip Morris, through its international company PMI, has sold and continues to sell the same addictive cigarettes, including the misleading lights, low tar and ultra light variants, to the rest of the world. In other words no admission of consumer fraud, no corrective statements, and no compensation for lives lost.

In the ASEAN region, PMI has targeted Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam to increase cigarette sales. In fact, PMI’s annual report cites the Philippines as an important profit base, and PMI is investing US$ 1.9 billion to beef-up its cigarette business in Indonesia.

In Indonesia, PMI sells its “U MILD” brand at a cheap price to appeal to young smokers with low incomes and advertises it as a brand that understands men and the “Bro code” between male friends; its slogan is “Cowok U MILD lebih tahu” (“U MILD guys know better”). PMI also uses its Indonesian front group, GAPRINDO, to fight tobacco control measures such as a tobacco advertising ban and substantial tobacco tax increases.

In Malaysia, PMI has funded a local think tank, IDEAS, which opposes tobacco control measures, especially plain packaging and tax increase, while in the Philippines, PMI’s local affiliate, PMFTC, violated the Civil Service Commission-Department of Health Joint Memorandum Circular, which protects the bureaucracy against tobacco industry interference, by sponsoring two summits on climate change for public officials.

In 1954, the Chairman 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.” After 63 years, ‘tomorrow’ has still not come for Philip Morris.

Philip Morris’ concept of ‘tomorrow’ has no corrective statements for the addicted poor smokers in developing countries, no responsibility for those killed by its products, and no compensation for the families who lost their loved ones. Philip Morris continues to remain in the tobacco business and still derive its profits from addictive and harmful tobacco. ##

Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA Email: | Mobile: +63 999 881 2117 

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SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.