May 4, 2022

Activists speak up at Philip Morris International’s annual shareholders’ meeting

On May 4, 2022 Philip Morris International hosted its virtual annual shareholders meeting, where Corporate Accountability staff and allies took the microphone and demanded that the corporation answer for marketing its deadly products to youth in Colombia, healthwashing its image through pharmaceutical investments, and more.

Read the transcript of each statement below.

Nicolás Parra, Ecudar Consumedores: Colombia Tiny targets findings Vs. PMI Smoke-Free World Campaign

Mary Vance, Corporate Accountability: WHO WNTD: PMI finding a way out the WHO FCTC to gain political influence for its products? Reflection about UNFCCC and Pharma

Martha Denton, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals: The future of Marlboro Brand

Nicolás Parra: Colombia Tiny targets findings Vs. PMI Smoke-Free World Campaign

I am Nicolás Parra, I am a Colombian lawyer who has been closely following the enforcement of the tobacco control law in my country, which among others prohibits all forms of advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of tobacco products and derivatives.

Today, I would like to ask a question about Philip Morris International’s (PMI’s) practices in my country regarding the promotion of cigarettes and the heated tobacco system, IQOS Heets.

A point-of-sale monitoring investigation conducted in 2021 found that PMI is conducting aggressive promotional display campaigns for the Marlboro Brand and its variants, including migrating the Derby brand of cigarettes to a Marlboro variant. The promotional display of cigarettes at points of sale is done through advertising displays made in series and delivered throughout the country by representatives of PMI’s subsidiaries in Colombia Coltabaco SAS and Philip Morris Colombia SAS.

The promotional display of tobacco products and derivatives is accompanied by packaging that has phrases such as: “New image, same flavor;” “Dare to discover it;” the cigarette exhibitions are accompanied with lights and other types of imagery to make them more attractive to youth.

In addition, PMI has also been an official sponsor of the most important youth music festival in Colombia, through its heated tobacco system, IQOS Heets. When you attend the festival, you see that the IQOS Heets brand is being advertised simultaneously with the Marlboro brand and its variants. Both brands are being promoted at the same time, in the same spaces, showing that PMI’s smoke-free campaign is just for public relations, and that its real business is and will continue being cigarettes. Moreover, all of these marketing tactics appear to circumvent Colombia’s life-saving tobacco control regulations.

So if PMI keeps saying and constantly publicizing that it is going to stop making and selling cigarettes:

  • Why did PMI launch new cigarette variants of Marlboro such as “Vista” in Colombia, carrying out an entire campaign in points of sale to position it, displaying it next to sweets, ice cream, and other items that are very attractive to children, and flooding both neighborhood stores and candy stores next to playgrounds and schools to advertise them, in apparent violation of Colombian regulations?


Mary Vance: WHO WNTD: PMI finding a way out the WHO FCTC to gain political influence for its products? Reflection about UNFCCC and Pharma

My name is Mary Vance and I am with the non-profit Corporate Accountability.

As you may be aware, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) 2022 World No Tobacco Day campaign is “Tobacco: Threat to our environment.” My question is about the environmental impact of tobacco, cigarettes, and “smoke-free products,” and the role of PMI in this situation, particularly its political interference.

In 2021, we witnessed Philip Morris International (PMI) attending meetings under the umbrella of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we have also seen the company announcing investments in the pharmaceutical industry, including investments for the development of a Covid-19 vaccine; all framed in what PMI eloquently calls a “transformation strategy,” a well coordinated global public relations campaign.

But there is an irreconcilable conflict of interest between PMI’s interests and public health. The tobacco industry’s interest is to sell as many of your harmful products as possible, and pay for as little of the damage those products cause to public health and our environment as possible. And that damage is extensive, from cigarette butts in the oceans, tobacco crops in soil, and the impacts of the tobacco industry’s entire production chain on global warming. These conflicting interests are the exact reason why the global tobacco treaty has established a firewall against industry interference through Article 5.3—a firewall that PMI appears determined to undermine.

PMI should be respectful of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control precedent and recognize that the guidelines in Article 5.3 should apply to all other treaties under the United Nations system. Just as PMI is not a stakeholder when drafting regulations for tobacco products, it shouldn’t be a stakeholder in discussions that address fundamental issues for life, such as climate talks, or discussions on a global treaty on pandemics.

My question to you is:

  • The global tobacco treaty established a strong firewall to deal with the inherent conflicts of interest of the tobacco industry with regards to policy making. Why then, does your corporation continue to interfere in global public policy through coordinated PR campaigns that attempt to position your company as a public health partner to get a seat at global climate negotiations even when your core product still kills millions annually?

Martha Denton. “PMI Cigarettes & marketing: Nothing has changed”

My name is Martha Denton, and I am here on behalf of the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals.

For years, Philip Morris International (PMI) has been conducting a huge global PR campaign about a hypothetical “Smoke Free Future.” On July 18, 2019, PRWeek published an interview with PMI’s Senior Vice President of Communications, Marian Salzman. She claimed that PMI is now positioning itself as a smoke-free company, dedicated to eradicating combustible cigarettes and replacing them with less harmful alternatives; she emphatically stated that “once IQOS is legal for sale in a country, PMI stops marketing cigarettes immediately, we don’t stop selling them, but we stop marketing them.”

Through our monitoring of tobacco products advertising, I can tell you that I know that this is not true. Mrs. Salzman may know that this is not true, and you should know that this is not true. What we know is that PMI is promoting its cigarettes globally, no matter if IQOS-Heets are fully available and legal. The real business is cigarettes, and if you stop marketing cigarettes, you are not going to achieve the volume of profits you want to reach, to be able to report back to your investors.

Your portfolio is led by Marlboro, according to your Form 10k report, “the world’s best-selling international cigarette,” which accounted for approximately 38 percent of your total cigarette shipment volume during 2021. Shipments of Marlboro increased by 2.9 percent in 2021, and represented approximately 9.5 percent of the international cigarette market in 2021, 9.5 percent in 2020, 10.0 percent in 2019, 9.7 percent in 2018, and 9.7 percent in 2017 (excluding the Popular Republic of China). In other words, it looks like a pretty stable market over the last five years. Nothing has changed regarding your real business, cigarettes.

  • Going back to Mrs. Salzman’s interview, my questions to you are:
    When does PMI actually intend to stop producing and selling cigarettes, or is that claim all smoke and mirrors?
    And if you are going to stop producing and selling cigarettes, what is going to happen with the Marlboro brand, is it going to disappear or are you going to move the promotion of this brand to new products?

Corporate Accountability
Our Movement Needs You
You’ll receive email action alerts from Corporate Accountability.

Corporate Accountability is looking for a new Executive Director