Taking action on smoking and health
Tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI) has repeatedly declared its intention to quit selling tobacco, but has refused to set a date to do so. In the meantime, it deals its deadly product to people across the globe, with millions expected to be hooked in Africa in the next few years.
Now, with a major human rights organisation calling on them to shut down sales of cigarettes, 89* health and campaigning organisations have told them to put up or shut up.
In 1954, PMI promised to “stop business tomorrow” if it became apparent that cigarettes were harmful to health. In 1997 PMI Chief Executive Geoffrey Bible when asked what he would do with his manufacturing plants if scientists proved that cigarettes were a cause of cancer, responded by saying he would “shut it down instantly."
In May 2017 a human rights organisation that had been engaged in voluntary collaboration with PMI, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, ended its relationship with them, stating “Tobacco is deeply harmful to human health, and there can be no doubt that the production and marketing of tobacco is irreconcilable with the human right to health. For the tobacco industry, the UNGPs [United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] therefore require the cessation of the production and marketing of tobacco.”
There has been no response from PMI beyond continued rhetoric about acting responsibly. Internationally tobacco is responsible for the loss of over 7 million lives every year. It is a product that reliably kills up to two thirds of its consumers when used long term as intended, and no way has yet been found to make combustible tobacco safe despite numerous attempts by manufacturers over the decades to do so.
Today ASH Scotland joins 89 organisations world-wide in holding PMI to account for its rhetoric. Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH Scotland said:
"Without a meaningful strategy to follow through on the rhetoric, this is all just hot air and profit-mongering. Today we join 89 organisations in calling Philip Morris's bluff.
“If PMI is serious about acting responsibly and ending the epidemic that has harmed so many people and ended so many lives prematurely, they need to take effective action now. If they are serious about ending the sale of combustible tobacco they must act now.
“There are many low cost or no-cost steps this company could take right now, including stopping direct mail and promotions to tobacco customers in its database, ending legal and other challenges to public health policies that discourage smoking, and stopping promoting cigarettes world-wide.
“Today ASH Scotland joins 89 organisations representing medicine and global health, human rights and consumer protection, in calling on Philip Morris to follow through on its stated intentions."
Notes for Editors
The letter, coordinated by German NGO Unfairtobacco and ASH US, can be found at https://www.unfairtobacco.org/en/open-letter-quitpmi/ Their press release can be found at https://www.unfairtobacco.org/en/pressrelease-open-letter-quitpmi/.
The Danish Institute of Human Rights statement can be found here: https://www.humanrights.dk/news/human-rights-assessment-philip-morris-international
*Due to some late additions the letter now has 160 signatories
Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland) (ASH Scotland) is a registered Scottish charity (SC 010412) and a company limited by guarantee(Scottish company no 141711). The registered office is 8 Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HB.
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