Philip Morris International (PMI) owns 7 of the15 biggest cigarette brands in the world, including Marlboro. They sell 900m cigarettes every year, and have spent billions in a bid to make them “cool.”
But last week, the company ran multiple full-page ads in newspapers announcing they had an unlikely New Year’s resolution: to “stop selling cigarettes” in the UK and get people to “quit smoking.”
Why is the most notorious tobacco company on Earth suddenly hellbent on crushing its own core product?
It’s all part of a rebranding effort
The company’s vision to end smoking isn’t some enlightened quest: it’s the latest installment in their new initiative (dubbed “smoke-free future”) to convert users to its slew of new products.
In the last few years, PMI has invested $3B in developing alternatives to traditional cigarettes, including the iQOS — a pen which heats tobacco without burning it. The company claims these products are a “better choice,” and a healthier alternative, to cigarettes.
To be clear we have a company that has been profiting enormously from cigarettes for decades–and has actively assisted in making the problem worse–now playing the noble sage, here to rectify its sins by shifting the public from one addictive product to another.
Luckily, most health orgs are seeing through this
In a statement last year, the World Health Organization stated that PMI is “marketing tobacco products in ways that misleadingly suggest that some tobacco products are less harmful than others.”
The claims from PMI that their new “smoke-free” products are “a better choice” are still largely unfounded, and some experiments have found they include many of the cancer-causing chemicals normal cigs do.
So, let’s call this what it really is: a company trying desperately to bypass the increasingly harsh regulations imposed on cigarettes by shifting consumers to so-called “safer” alternatives.