Tobacco Giant Philip Morris Wants To Quit The Cigarette Business

By Bryan Le 01/08/18

Some critics of the tobacco industry believe that this is a cynical move by Philip Morris to adapt to an increasingly smoke-free world.

 Pack of Marlboro Cigarettes, made by Philip Morris.

Philip Morris International, which traces its origins to a 19th century London tobacco shop, took several full-page ads in UK newspapers to announce that it is stopping sales of cigarettes.

The UK arm of the company, Philip Morris Limited (PML), claims that not only will they stop the sale of cigarettes, they will assist in the efforts of local UK governments to cut smoking rates by including information about smoking alternatives in their cigarette packs. In a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, the managing director of PML wrote:

"We believe we have an important role to play in helping the U.K. become smoke-free. The commitments announced today are practical steps that could accelerate that goal. We recognize that never starting to smoke—or quitting altogether—are always the best option."

Despite this significant change in direction by the company, some critics of the tobacco industry believe that this is a cynical move by Philip Morris to adapt to an increasingly smoke-free world.

"This is the same-old, same-old from a company that's a convicted racketeer," said Erika Sward, an assistant vice president of national advocacy at the American Lung Association. "Make no mistake, Philip Morris is still very much in the tobacco and cigarette business as well as the cigar and the smokeless [tobacco] business."

All the company is doing, critics say, is positioning itself to ride the new wave of smoking alternatives such as vapes and e-cigarettes. While enthusiasts of these technologies believe it to be invaluable to kicking a smoking habit, there has yet to be proof that they actually are a healthy alternative to cigarettes or cigars.

Philip Morris is in the business of smoking alternatives with a product called iQOS, a device that heats tobacco without burning it to reduce the carcinogens present in traditional smoking methods.

The demand for such products has risen in recent years, including amongst teenagers. These days, teenagers are using drugs and cigarettes less, but are vaping in increasing rates. Among surveyed high schoolers, 4.2% report smoking cigarettes, while 16.6% reported using an electronic alternative.

“We are especially concerned because the survey shows that some of the teens using these devices are first-time nicotine users,” NIDA director Dr. Nora D. Volkow said in a release. “Recent research suggests that some of them could move on to regular cigarette smoking, so it is critical that we intervene with evidence-based efforts to prevent youth from using these products.”

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter

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