Tobacco turnaround: Philip Morris wants to ban smoking

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In a stunning twist, the CEO of tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) has called for UK lawmakers to ban smoking during the next decade.

CEO Jacek Olczak, whose company owns the iconic Marlboro brand outside the US, said he imagines a future entirely “without cigarettes” in a new interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

“And actually, the sooner it happens, the better it is for everyone,” the leader of the multibillion dollar global cigarette manufacturer said in the stunning turnaround.

“Give them a choice of smoke-free alternatives … with the right regulation and information it can happen 10 years from now in some countries,” Olczak suggested. “You can solve the problem once and forever.”

Olczak compared cigarettes to gas-powered cars, which the UK has vowed to eliminate from sale by 2035.

“‘I want to allow this company to leave smoking behind,” Olczak also said, speaking to the Daily Mail, adding that Marlboro may soon be gone from store shelves in Great Britain.

“It will disappear. The first choice for consumers is they should quit smoking. But if they don’t, the second-best choice is to let them switch to the better alternatives,” he said.

“Quitting is the best option, but for those who don’t, science and technology has allowed companies like ours to create better alternatives to continued smoking,” Dr. Moira Gilchrist, PMI’s head of global scientific communications, said in a statement to The Post, confirming Olczak’s comments in UK media.

Olczak encouraged government action to clear the air on vaporizers and other smoke-free nicotine delivery products. PMI has pushed their brand of e-cigarette, IQOS, which delivers a breath of nicotine by heating a smokeless, disposable tobacco “stick.”

Executive chairman Andre Calantzopoulos told Bloomberg in the spring that their “priority” is in smoke-free products, as illustrated in a recent ad campaign.

Perhaps not by coincidence, the multinational tobacco giant happened to launch a $1.24 billion bid for British brand Vectura, a producer of asthma inhalers.

Smoking is a high-risk factor for respiratory diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer — some of which are treated with the use of rescue inhalers.

Anti-tobacco activists and politicians have decried PMI’s interest in the inhaler market — one which they’ve indirectly helped develop and support through decades of aggressive advertising tactics and obfuscating the science of smoking, resulting in more than 8 million preventable deaths globally, the World Health Organization estimates, including 1.2 million due to second-hand smoke.

Here in the US, where smoking leads to more than 480,000 premature deaths annually, Marlboro, IQOS and other tobacco brands associated with the Philip Morris name are marketed and sold by Philip Morris USA, which broke off from PMI in 2008 in an acquisition by Altria Group, headquartered in Virginia. PMI does not market or sell any tobacco products in the US, a representative for the company confirmed to The Post.

The US Food and Drug Administration recently announced plans to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes, which researchers have argued are unscrupulously marketed toward minors.

But PMI is past that with their newfound commitment to smokeless products — and their sights set on potentially breaking into North America’s booming cannabis market.

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