Marlboro cigarette maker Philip Morris International drew accusations of hypocrisy after using a four-page newspaper advertisement in Britain to urge smokers to quit cigarettes.
The wraparound advertisement covering yesterday’s Daily Mirror tabloid is part of Philip Morris’s €2.3m Hold My Light campaign, in which the world’s biggest international tobacco company is pushing a 30-day challenge for people to give up smoking.
The campaign also features a video and a website where smokers can sign up for the challenge and gain information to help them to kick the habit.
Cigarettes account for the vast majority of Philip Morris’s revenue, but the company has repeatedly stated a longer-term vision to replace cigarette sales with products such as its iQOS tobacco-heating device, which it says is less dangerous.
“This is staggering hypocrisy from a tobacco company to promote its own smoking-cessation products in the UK while continuing to promote tobacco cigarettes across the world,” Cancer Research UK said.
“The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes,” it said.
Philip Morris has said that Britain, where like Ireland, advertising and marketing of cigarettes is prohibited, could eradicate cigarettes in coming years.
British health regulators have also endorsed e-cigarettes as a way to help people to quit.
“This campaign is simply PR puff,” said Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy for Action on Smoking and Health.
“If they were serious about a smoke-free world they wouldn’t challenge tobacco legislation around the world but instead support regulations that will really help smokers quit and prevent children from taking up smoking,” she said.
Last year Reuters published a special report on efforts by Philip Morris to subvert the World Health Organisation’s global tobacco treaty, which is aimed at reducing smoking worldwide.
In earnings results published last week, Philip Morris highlighted the sales of iQOS in the EU, as well as cigarette sales outside Europe.
Morgan Stanley analyst Pamela Kaufman pointed to a lower than-than-expected decline in sales of “combustibles” and better-than-expected shipments of “heated” tobacco sales.
Cigarette volume has improved in markets like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the Philippines, while the combustible pricing variance of approximately 8% was “driven notably by the EU region, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Russia,” said chief financial officer Martin King.
He highlighted the performance of iQOS, particularly in the EU. IQOS is also doing well in Russia.
Reuters and Bloomberg