June 3, 2024

Press Release: Colombia banned tobacco promotion. Philip Morris International still sponsors its biggest music festival.

New report shows how tobacco giant targets youth through pop culture.

Bogotá, Colombia – As rates of youth tobacco and nicotine use continue to skyrocket, new analysis from Corporate Accountability sheds light on the tobacco industry’s targeting of young people through pop culture events in the Global South, even in countries with strong tobacco control measures.

The case study focuses on Colombia, where tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) has sponsored at least the past three editions of Estéreo Picnic music festival (EPF), despite the nation’s ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, sponsorship, and promotion (TAPS). EPF is one of the most popular and highly attended music events in Latin America, especially among youth.

“Estéreo Picnic is a trendsetter among young people, and Philip Morris is trying to set the trend of smoking so it can continue raking in profits as its previous users die off. The corporation’s targeting of young festival goers is not only morally reprehensible, it also raises questions about the legality of the sponsorship,” said Daniel Dorado, Tobacco Campaign Director at Corporate Accountability and a co-author of the report.

Monitoring from the past three editions of EPF (2022-2024) shows clear instances of PMI’s youth-oriented marketing tactics, including brightly colored kiosks selling its tobacco and nicotine products, and roving models promoting the brands among the crowd.

While PMI sponsors EPF under its heated tobacco system brand IQOS-Heets, it also promotes Marlboro and other traditional cigarettes to festival goers.

“PMI wants to whitewash its image, but it’s using the same dirty tricks to hook young people to its deadly products. There’s no reason it should promote Marlboro cigarettes at a youth-oriented festival if its stated goal is to switch adult smokers to other tobacco and nicotine products,” said Dorado, echoing statements made during PMI’s shareholder meeting in May.

The findings, released as part of World No Tobacco Day activities, complement a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) examining the tobacco industry’s broader strategies for targeting and addicting youth.

They also add to previous investigations of PMI’s predatory advertising in Colombia, including cigarette displays at children’s eye-level.

Report authors call on the Colombian and other Latin American governments to better monitor and enforce compliance with existing TAPS laws, and further implement regulations in line with the global tobacco treaty.

They also urge festival organizers to drop PMI as a sponsor, and call on PMI to stop targeting youth and to observe the treaty’s rigorous public health measures in all countries where it operates.


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