Philip Mor­ris ac­cused of hypocrisy over anti-smok­ing ad

The Malta Business Weekly - - INTERNATIONAL -

One of the world's big­gest to­bacco firms, Philip Mor­ris, has been ac­cused of "stag­ger­ing hypocrisy" over its new ad cam­paign that urges smok­ers to quit.

The Marl­boro maker said the move was "an im­por­tant next step" in its aim to "ul­ti­mately stop sell­ing ci­garettes".

But Can­cer Re­search UK said the firm was just try­ing to pro­mote its smok­ing al­ter­na­tives, such as heated to­bacco.

"This is a stag­ger­ing hypocrisy," it said, point­ing out the firm still pro­motes smok­ing out­side the UK.

"The best way Philip Mor­ris could help peo­ple to stop smok­ing is to stop mak­ing ci­garettes," Ge­orge But­ter­worth, Can­cer Re­search UK's to­bacco pol­icy man­ager said.

The char­ity said smok­ing was the lead­ing pre­ventable cause of can­cer and it en­cour­aged peo­ple to switch away com­pletely from smok­ing, in­clud­ing through the use of e-ci­garettes.

Health char­ity Ac­tion on Smok­ing and Health (Ash) also crit­i­cised the cam­paign – which is called Hold My Light and has been launched in a four-page wrap­around on Mon­day's Daily Mirror - say­ing it was a way for Philip Mor­ris to get around the UK's anti-to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing rules.

There is also a cam­paign video, which shows a young woman ne­go­ti­at­ing a Mis­sion Im­pos­si­blestyle room in or­der to hand her cig­a­rette lighter over to a group of friends, who are sup­port­ing her in a bid to give up smok­ing.

Most forms of to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion in the UK are banned, and rules in­tro­duced last year mean ci­garettes and to­bacco must be sold in plain green pack­ets.

Deb­o­rah Arnott, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ash, said Philip Mor­ris was still ad­ver­tis­ing its Marl­boro brand wher­ever glob­ally it was le­gal to do so.

"The fact of the mat­ter is that it can no longer do that in the UK, we're a dark mar­ket where all ad­ver­tis­ing, pro­mo­tion and spon- sor­ship is banned, and ci­garettes are in plain packs.

"So in­stead Philip Mor­ris is pro­mot­ing the com­pany name which is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked with Marl­boro," she said.

Philip Mor­ris has said pre­vi­ously that it wants to achieve a "smoke-free" fu­ture.

Like many to­bacco firms, Philip Mor­ris is mov­ing to­wards a fo­cus on new prod­ucts to re­place ci­garettes as the num­ber of smok­ers in the UK con­tin­ues to de­cline.

In the UK, it mar­kets sev­eral al­ter­na­tives to ci­garettes, in­clud­ing a heated to­bacco prod­uct, Iqos.

It also owns the Nic­o­cig, Vivid and Mesh e-cig­a­rette brands.

The firm's man­ag­ing direc­tor Peter Nixon said its new ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign was "about sup­port­ing smok­ers in find­ing al­ter­na­tives".

Asked why, if Philip Mor­ris was so keen for smok­ers to quit, it did not sim­ply stop mak­ing ci­garettes and fo­cus en­tirely on al­ter­na­tive prod­ucts, he said it was be­cause smok­ers would just switch to a ri­val prod­uct.

"Ci­garettes still gen­er­ate 87% of our busi­ness. We want to get to [smoke-free] as soon as pos­si­ble, and we want to be sell­ing al­ter­na­tives, but it does take time," he said.

Mr Nixon said the firm had in­vested over £4bn in de­vel­op­ing al­ter­na­tive prod­ucts to ci­garettes.

The cam­paign sug­gests four ways to give up ci­garettes, in­clud­ing go­ing cold turkey, us­ing nico­tine patches, va­p­ing and us­ing heated to­bacco prod­ucts.

In an un­usual move, the Daily Mirror made a ref­er­ence in its ed­i­to­rial col­umn to the ad­ver­tis­ing fea­ture which en­velops the pa­per. It said it was "pleased to back the cam­paign".

It added: "Yes, we were sur­prised too that this is a cam­paign cre­ated by Philip Mor­ris Ltd. But it can only be a good thing that they are now try­ing to en­cour­age peo­ple to quit ci­garettes."

In July last year, the gov­ern­ment set out a plan to make Eng­land, in ef­fect, smoke-free in the next few decades.

The new To­bacco Con­trol Plan aimed to cut smok­ing rates from 15.5% to 12% of the pop­u­la­tion by 2022.

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