By CNS for Asian Tribune.
On Friday 31 May, the globe will unite for World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) for the 31st year to raise the visibility of tobacco related disease and prevent the spread of the epidemic. But this year, Philip Morris International (PMI) one of the chief profiteers and drivers of the tobacco crisis is trying to co-opt the day as a marketing stunt for its newest tobacco product.
Since its conception in 1987, WNTD has aimed to specifically draw attention to the abusive business practices of the tobacco industry and has been largely ignored by the industry until recently. But, as part of its newest campaign to position itself as the solution to the very crisis it drives, PMI has announced it wants to rebrand “World No Smoking Day” to push its latest “heat-not-burn” tobacco products.
“It is precisely because of deadly corporations like Philip Morris International that this day exists in the first place,” said Bobby Ramakant of Vote For Health campaign of Asha Parivar, and a member of Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT). “Make no mistake, this is a PR campaign — nothing more. Everything PMI has done in the last two years has been about addicting more people to tobacco.”
PMI’s recent interest in WNTD is the latest tactic in the corporation’s rebranding campaign associated with it’s newest tobacco product, IQOS. In the last two years, PMI launched Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (of which it remains the sole funder), started a life insurance business that incentivizes tobacco use and announced an “anti-smoking campaign” that encourages smokers to use its latest tobacco product, IQOS, instead of its other tobacco products.
At the corporation’s shareholder meeting earlier this month, the tobacco corporation put on a show for investors, presenting itself as an antismoking crusader despite 100 percent of the corporation’s revenues coming from tobacco products sales. In fact, in the last year, the corporation has actually introduced a new cigarette product and expanded its cigarette market share all while trying to convince the media and investors that it wants to end smoking.
“Philip Morris is trying to draw some arbitrary distinction between smoking and tobacco — as if smoking is bad for your health but tobacco is not,” said Michel Legendre of Corporate Accountability, “Nicotine is addictive and tobacco use is deadly, period. PMI and those who continue to profit off of and drive the tobacco epidemic have no place in a public health campaign like World No Tobacco Day. PMI’s attempts to co-opt the day are frankly disrespectful to the millions who have died and the millions who will die this year from using PMI’s products.”