Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Tobacco Control Pigeons, Meet Philip Morris's Cat

Boom! Yesterday saw Philip Morris International (PMI) - the tobacco company that owns the Marlboro brand amongst others - making a New Year's Resolution with full page adverts in the Daily Mirror, The Times and The Sun. Here is what they said.

According to an ad industry website, this is "the first step in a campaign that includes further elements later this year". The idea that a tobacco manufacturer is publicly stating - in full page ads in widely-read newspapers - that they want to quit making cigarettes is quite a cat amongst the pigeons story, so much so that the BBC picked it up and ran with it too.
Tobacco firm Philip Morris has placed an advertisement in some newspapers promoting its "ambition to stop selling cigarettes in the UK". 
It is part of the company's drive to achieve a "smoke-free future". 
Asked why, if Philip Morris was so keen to go smoke-free, it did not simply stop making cigarettes and switch over to alternative production, a company spokesman told the BBC: "We are trying to go smoke free as fast as we can. If we just stopped selling cigarettes tomorrow, others would sell them in our place."
Well, it's not just that really. It would also help to fuel a black market and any CEO who cut their shareholders off at the knees with such a stupid destruction of their business would probably end up in jail for abandoning their fiduciary duty to their investors, many of which are pension funds which could see their value decimated overnight. Any tobacco controller who suggests this as a feasible course of action - and some actually have - is showing themselves up to be a monumental cretin.

Tobacco controllers have been very keen to peddle conspiracy theories about PMI and their smokefree future claims. They insist that the Foundation for a Smoke-free World is a scam and are desperately trying to undermine it (no doubt because it will do far more honest research than tobacco control ever has), and this new development is already being received in the same manner.

The overall initiative from PMI, though, shouldn't really be controversial. Uptake of e-cigs in UK, US and elsewhere, plus the astonishing success of heated tobacco products in Asia, shows that there is a huge market to be tapped in harm reduced products, so any company that ignores new technology and rigidly sticks to conventional tobacco could risk doing a Kodak.

And moving from delivery of nicotine via combustion to nicotine via heating or in vapour form is a pretty natural progression for the industry, but that's still no good for a tobacco control industry which is now more interested in destroying "Big Tobacco".
However, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health said the "offer to support" local authorities was nothing more than a donation, which is not allowed under World Health Organization guidelines. 
"As Philip Morris well knows the government isn't allowed to accept 'donations' from the tobacco industry," she said. 
"However, it does show that the industry has money to burn. Rather than making donations, it should be forced to pay the government more of its enormous profits."
This is bollocks, of course. WHO guidelines are exactly that, guidelines. The government is "allowed" to take donations from whoever it likes, all that article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC says is that any interaction with the industry must be transparent. Besides, I don't think government is quaking in their boots about any sanctions the WHO could apply considering it leeches off of UK taxpayers for its revenue.

But isn't it bizarre that PMI wants to help Stop Smoking Services (SSS); put smoking cessation messages into its packs for every smoker to read directing them to a website which mentions no brands but is full of information on how to stop smoking ... and Debs Arnott - reportedly someone who wants people to quit smoking - is arguing against them!

Arnott and her richly state-funded colleagues in tobacco control have lobbied and bullied to have all marketing removed from the tobacco industry - right down to the colours of the packets themselves - because they deem it all to be far too powerful. Yet here is PMI suggesting putting this incredibly powerful stuff into packs to suggest smokers either quit or switch to a safer alternative, and apparently it's now not powerful at all .. it's just a PR stunt. I wish they would make up their minds.

The truth is that there must be many in tobacco control circles shitting themselves right now. Initiatives like PMI's threaten to render tobacco control irrelevant and steal their jobs. This is why they persistently misapply article 5.3 and threaten governments with dire consequences if they so much as answer an email from industry. Tobacco control trades on this fear. They need it because they know damn well that in a fair debate they would lose dismally.

We now face the intriguing situation whereby PMI want to put inserts into packs to help people quit smoking, and want to assist SSS into the bargain, while anti-smoking groups heckle from the sidelines and lobby against it, and government probably feels obliged to dream up some bullshit reason why they won't permit any of it.

Now, if that doesn't convince you that this whole repulsive anti-smoking charade has never had anything to do with health, then nothing will. 

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