Calling Out Philip Morriss
We have to thank the BBC for bringing us news of a major scandal (online 30 November 2016).
Andre Calantzopoulos, the CEO of Philip Morris, a tobacco company that turned out 850 billion cigarettes in 2015 from which it generated net revenue of about $74 billion, was recently interviewed on the BBC.
AC: We produce a product that causes disease and I think the primary responsibility we have…is to develop products like this [the unpronounceable ‘Iqos’] and commercialize them as soon as possible. These products hold very great promise obviously for consumers and also for public health.
BBC: Conventional cigarettes might eventually be taken off the market because of public health…aren’t you doing this because you’re concerned not about the consumer but because you’re concerned to have a future business?
AC: First of all we are concerned about the consumer. Secondly even based on WHO projections there will be in 2025 still one billion plus smokers around the planet and there are 9.6 million smokers in the UK. Once we have the ability and innovation to offer these products to consumers we have to offer it to them.
BBC: If you were concerned about the consumers you wouldn’t sell cigarettes.
AC: I think consumers choose to use cigarettes. I don’t think Philip Morris has invented cigarettes. I think for us is to offer our consumers the best product we can in the category we all know is addictive and causes harm. Once we have the alternative and we have it today and I’m very happy…and we’ll do everything we can to convince them to switch to this product.
What an utterly breathtaking load of self-serving hypocrisy! I am sure Mr Calantzopoulos is very happy and concerned about the consumer, especially the amount of money he can continue to extract from those who are hooked on his company’s poisonous products. So he thinks consumers choose to use cigarettes, does he? They chose to use the first one, no doubt, but they didn’t choose to become addicted to them. Addiction is the only reason smokers continue to smoke and why they find it so difficult to stop. Does a heroin or cocaine addict choose to continue to use heroin or cocaine? It would be an insult and a lie to talk about these unfortunate people in such a way. What’s the difference between cigarette (nicotine) addiction and other drug addictions? The only difference is that heroin and cocaine are illegal but nicotine is legal. And it wasn’t Philip Morris who invented cigarettes. So that’s all right then? But it’s Philip Morris – the world’s second largest manufacturer of cigarettes – that chooses to continue to make and sell them (together with others in the Big Tobacco cartel). Then he says ‘…the best product…in the category [cigarettes] we all know is addictive and causes harm.’ So he’s contradicting himself: if cigarettes are addictive, how can he say smokers choose to use them?
If he were sincere (don’t laugh), he would forthwith arrange for his company to stop making cigarettes and instead concentrate on alternative products like ‘Iqos’ which, he says, they have today. What’s he waiting for?
Then we hear from Deborah Arnott of ASH:
DA: On current trends smoking will kill a billion people in the 21st century mostly in poor countries. If Philip Morris really want to [inaudible] smoking then it has to stop promoting smoking to new young smokers around the world using methods which are quite rightly illegal in the UK. You know smoking’s coming to an end here, we’re seeing a smaller and smaller proportion of young people taking it up, and if these products can help adult smokers quit then all well and good but they still need regulating as tobacco products and we still need to be very cautious about what the industry’s up to.
BBC: [Andre Calantzopoulos] extended an invitation for groups like ASH to come and check their science, would you take them up on that?
DA: We’re not scientists, it’s not for us to do…but yes we need more independent verification…and that will take a lot of time and money.
What is it with ASH? Why does Ms Arnott think Philip Morris only needs to stop promoting smoking to new young smokers? What about Philip Morris stopping making cigarettes? As for her admission that ASH lacks the expertise to check out the scientific basis of the claims that ‘heat not burn’ and similar products are safer than ordinary cigarettes, do you need to be an Einstein to form a view on this? Nobody can know the effects of these new products, including e-cigarettes, until they’ve been in use for a long time, say ten to twenty years.
While this huge unregulated public health experiment is going on, what about banning conventional cigarettes in the meantime?
Text © Gabriel Symonds