By Devangi Narang
Phillip Morris International (PMI), the makers of Marlboro, recently announced in a new advertising campaign that it plans to stop selling cigarettes. The tobacco giant placed full-page advertisements in a number of UK-based newspapers stating that its new year resolution for 2018 is to eventually stop selling cigarettes. The advertisement also claimed, rather dramatically, that “No cigarette company has done anything like this before. You might wonder if we really mean it.”
The company also launched a new website, ‘smokefreefuture.co.uk’ to inform and encourage its English customers to quit. Its campaign is to help people quit smoking traditional cigarettes and to one day replace them all with smoke-free alternatives like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products. The company also pledged to support local authorities with measures to support people trying to quit smoking.
The company’s claims
The Swiss-headquartered giant claims that the alternatives are less harmful and that “we can achieve a significant public-health benefit only when a large number of these smokers switch from cigarettes to better products.” The company claims that it has been experimenting with “heating” rather than “burning” tobacco to do less damage to its customers.
The company is looking to expand the availability of new alternative products in the UK and the ad outlines how the business has spent more than £2.5bn on research and development over the past decade to develop smoke-free alternatives. One of these smoke- free alternatives is IQOS, which differs from vaporisers or e-cigarettes that heat a liquid containing nicotine. It produces much less smoke and releases fewer toxins than traditional cigarettes. Hence, it is “relatively” safer, claims the company. While the company claims to have been shifting its resources in marketing, research and manufacturing from cigarettes to “reduced risk products”, there is currently no timeline for the business to exit cigarettes completely.
Claims met with scepticism by many organisations
Most industry analysts and organisations doubt the chances of cigarettes being banished, either by e-cigarettes or other replacement products such as the IQOS. Despite the growing publicity surrounding vaporisers, e-cigarettes and IQOS, they remain a nascent technology that forms only a tiny part of tobacco firms’ income.
Moreover, in December, an investigation by Reuters cited former Philip Morris insiders who reportedly questioned the quality of the company’s internal research backing the claim that its smoke-free products are less harmful than cigarettes. The company defended its research and told the news agency that all of its studies were carried out by suitably qualified and trained professionals.
The World Health Organisation criticised the claims in a statement in September 2017 by citing that-“The tobacco industry and its front groups have misled the public about the risks associated with other tobacco products. Such misleading conduct continues today with companies, including PMI, marketing tobacco products in ways that misleadingly suggest that some tobacco products are less harmful than others.”
The new wave of rebranding by tobacco companies
The move by PMI is the latest one in the wave of big tobacco companies rebranding themselves in an increasingly anti-smoking world. Amid irrefutable evidence that smoking is the leading cause of early death, recent events indicate that tobacco giants are finally accepting that cigarette smoking is indeed injurious to health. Therefore, tobacco companies are embracing anti-smoking messaging and the international trend towards e-cigarette use.
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