On Monday, the world’s largest tobacco company, Philip Morris International, launched a campaign to encourage people in the UK to quit smoking tobacco.
Tobacco causes nearly 100,000 smoking-related deaths in the UK every year. And it’s the leading cause of premature death and the leading preventable cause of cancer. Selling tobacco cigarettes makes up 86% of Philip Morris’ business, so why do they want people to stop smoking?
The adverts are being sold under the guise of a public health campaign. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
It’s a staggering hypocrisy, where this tobacco giant is running a PR campaign in the UK to promote its own ‘quit smoking’ products, all the while continuing to promote its deadly tobacco products in countries where it’s still legal to do so.
Maintaining huge profit margins
The latest campaign is just one of a string of tactics that we’ve seen from the tobacco industry to improve its image while continuing to block anti-smoking measures and promote tobacco cigarettes to maintain its profit margins.
In 2011, Philip Morris International launched its ‘Be Malboro’ campaign, which has been strongly criticised for deliberately targeting young people and encouraging them to take up smoking.
And in 2015, the company filed a lawsuit against the UK Government over its plan to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products, a measure to make cigarettes less appealing to children.
Public health vs. vested interests
The UK Government is committed to protecting public health policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry as part of an international treaty. And rightly so. Given the industry’s historical record of manipulation and ongoing harm to public health, it cannot and should not be trusted.
If Philip Morris really want to help people to stop smoking, the best thing they could do is stop making cigarettes.
But that’s not going to happen.
What the latest campaign shows is the tobacco industry has money set aside to help smokers quit. National advertising campaigns like this one aren’t cheap. And we want the Government to see this and instead make the tobacco industry pay for the damage it causes.
A levy on their sales in the UK could contribute to a centralised pot of money for public health services. This would help the Government reach a smokefree future, keeping decisions around what’s best for public health away from those who profit from tobacco.
George Butterworth is a senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK
Read more: Why tobacco remains a global threat
Simon Pears November 18, 2018
It is important that we understand that companies cannot just switch production and habits. Rightly or wrongly tobacco companies create huge wealth, employment and income to the majority of pension funds, and therefore the move away from tobacco is a necessary move, but being done in a dignified manner so that there remains a sustainable business model. We should encourage the switch and not keep demonising tobacco. It is not the only killer.
Audrey Akroyd November 12, 2018
In complete agreement with all that has been said about Philip Morris and long may you continue the fight against the production of cigarettes.
Chris. Bagley November 10, 2018
Phil Morris et al don’t give a damn about their products killing people, money is their god and banks their temple.
Colin Ives November 10, 2018
The current campaign is a sop to the government’s anti smoking stance , while they push their sales in Africa and India where the markets are much larger.
Peter J Clark November 9, 2018
I support your two significant points, namely Philip Morris and the government’s “spinning”; Philip Morris’s cynicism in promoting giving up smoking and continuing to produce and then sell tobacco products where they can and secondly and the government’s lack of credible commitment in not imposing an appropriate levy on income, not just profits, from tobacco sales in the UK. I speak as a former smoker and the son of a smoker who suffered substantial medical issues arising from smoking, as do I probably.
Mike ashton November 9, 2018
Having watched my parents BOTH succumb to smoking related illness (my mother Bronchitis and my father pulmonary congestion and heart disease), I think tobacco companies should be treated like the international criminals they are.
Peter Allman November 9, 2018
Fully agree with this article, can Cancer Research start a zero tobacco campaign?
Geoff November 9, 2018
And please, do not let cannabis be legalised and become a tobacco replacemnt.
Andy M November 8, 2018
There’s already a huge levy on tobacco .. tax .. collected by the HMRC
Charlotte November 6, 2018
Hi I think they should stop making cigarrettes. Its not right for peoples heath. I qit 5 years.
John Simkin November 6, 2018
THESE GREEDY UNCARING FU_KERS NEED TO BE MASSIVELY FINED & THEN CLOSED DOWN !
Mrs Dawn Asplen November 6, 2018
I used to smoke when I was young but I really wished I had never of started because when your young you think it is ok but when you grow up you can actually see the damage that it does I stopped when I was told by a doctor she said to me cardboard box or a wooden one so I chose the cardboard one every time I fancied a cigarette I went and cleaned my teeth and that helped me my mum smoked and she died of lung cancer so that’s also why I quit
Rob Taylor November 5, 2018
The government should ban the sales on tobacco products in shops completely!! Instead tobacco should be precribed through the doctor, and collected from pharmacies! This would mean children cannot get them so easily, and slowly make the country smoke free
WENDY TAYLOR November 5, 2018
I have never smoked and I hate it. My father died aged 57 from lung cancer and it was heartbreaking to see his deterioration. In the seventies there was a major campaign through TV advertising highlighting the dangers of smoking and it was very effective. Over recent times there has been little TV coverage or advertising to highlight the dangers especially with regard to young adults and I feel the tobacco companies should contribute and be responsible for what ultimately is a killer. Personally I feel all tobacco products should be banned but as someone else has commented this will never happen. Even though my husband and I have never smoked our two children started at school and college, I found this devastating and would recommend that much more is done within these institutions. One has now stopped thankfully the other smokes socially.
Victoria Page November 5, 2018
I always thought that if a government really wanted to eradicate smoking the best solution (other than the Japanese approach of allowing people to smoke only on designated areas, as opposed to it being allowed unless specifically prohibited) was to gradually make cigarettes unavailable to the younger generations. It would go something like this: 1) Very strict age controls from sellers (who would face severe fines if they sold to minors). 2) Severe fines to adults who buy tobacco products for under aged people. 3) Moving the minimum age up by one year every year. Let’s say this year the minimum age is 18, next year it should be 19, the year after that 20, and so on. That way there’s a whole generation that won’t have access to tobacco. 4) Carry on with public health campaigns to help smokers quit. 5) Perhaps implement a “smokers tax” where you need to pay yearly for a smoking license (if you have children, for example, it should be higher). You’d get a card from your GP and need to show it every time you buy cigarettes.
There are a few downsides: This would, because of human nature, create a black market so the government might need to intervene. Another issue is that tobacco is heavily taxed and not all that money goes to dealing with the health issues, so it would mean a loss of revenue for the government. The eternal dilemma: personal freedom vs government control.
This would be an extreme solution, but in the meantime the Japanese solution could help. How is it fair than non-smokers such as myself (asthmatic and currently pregnant) have to breathe in second-hand smoke when it’s been proven time and again that smoking and second hand smoke cause severe health issues and death? You wouldn’t allow someone to go around spraying insecticide in public spaces because they get a kick out of it, why continue to allow it with tobacco?
Mick Newton November 4, 2018
I am in my 3rd year lung cancer free ,my message is simple stop or limit the sale of tobacco.
Jean Howard November 4, 2018
I must be the biggest ANTI SMOKER! I was a teenager in the early sixties and I never smoked! However, I became a Hair stylest, and in those most people smoked. I worked in small cubicles and with the smoke from most of my clients mixed with the fumes from chemicals products we used, I became very ill, I was in my thirties when I was diagnosed with chronic brittle asthma! I was in & out of Hospital and came close to death several times. Need I say more?
Mandy November 4, 2018
I am a smoker…. I find it very hard to understand that when we all know how bad smoking is, why the government does not ban it. Years ago when there were a handful of people diagnosed with CJD (mad cows disease) there was a total ban on selling certain types of beef!!!! Maybe because the government make so much money on the taxes of tobacco products!!!! Which does go to then fund th NHS…… makes you wonder ….
Margaret King November 4, 2018
As someone who has never smoked, I’m more concerned about the effects of PASSIVE smoking. But I do, of course, agree very strongly with your stance on this issue, and would obviously endorse your idea of a levy on the sales not only of Philip Morris, but ALL tobacco companies.
Philip Goldthorpe November 3, 2018
Agree about the levy. I believe the big tobacco companies are positioning themselves to promote vaping as a mainstream product.This will keep people addicted to nicotine. The other chemicals used are known to be harmful and the long term damage could be devastating. I now see young kids vaping and the message seems to be is that vaping is harmless. this is dangerous as they will be allowed to continue marketing these products due to the unholy alliance between the company lobbyists and government greedy for the taxes which will surely increase as vaping addiction becomes more mainstream. We will never get government help. in my opinion strong education and publicity needs to be made to inform young people of the dangers of putting these artificial chemicals into the body
Frances Grant November 3, 2018
You are ablolutely right! It has been scientifically proved that smoking tobacco is directly responsible for a large proportion of the population who need NHS treatment. It is only fair that the profits from tobacco sales should go to help fund the NHS which it is draining.
Michelle Morton November 3, 2018
Nicotine is an incredibly addictive, dangerous drug. When wrapped in tobacco and embedded with a carcinogenic chemical cocktail, cigarettes are lethal. It staggers me how they are still allowed to be sold, but that’s the power of commerce. ANY advertising Philip Morris does is advertising cigarettes. This should not be allowed. Stop making nicotine cool.
Susan M. Brown November 2, 2018
Anything that helps to prevent people from starting to smoke, or helps them to quit,
should be encouraged, so long as the tobacco companies are not making any money out of it!
I lost both my father and my father-in-law to smoking-related diseases (2 different types of cancer)
Helen Gardiner November 2, 2018
A levy on sales would be good.