Recently the Philippines Tobacco Institute, which represents Philip Morris International (PMI), among other tobacco companies, filed two lawsuits against the small city of Balanga in the Philippines. Litigation is a tried and trusted tool for the tobacco industry, especially against small or poor jurisdictions like Balanga. The goal is not to win the suits, but to force governments to back down in the face of large legal bills.
The tactic is despicable from the tobacco industry in general, but PMI injects the base alloy of hypocrisy. Check out www.pmi.com. Based on this landing page, one would naturally conclude that PMI would not challenge public health measures that seek to reduce smoking. After all, how can the world achieve a Smoke-Free Future without reducing smoking?
Last year, ASH wrote to the CEO of PMI, demanding that they live up to their promises and stop selling cigarettes. Their response shows that they have no intention of doing so. This should surprise no one. Even if CEO André Calantzopoulos were to suddenly grow a conscience, any move on his part to stop participating in the deaths of millions would be met by a pink slip from PMI’s board.
Balanga was singled out for legal attack because of its first-in-the-world “tobacco-free generation” policy, which will deny the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after January 1, 2000. It is a very sensible way to end the tobacco epidemic, by putting a cap on the creation of replacement smokers.
The citizens of Balanga are strongly in favor, especially the youth that will be impacted. It doesn’t take away a single current PMI customer. But PMI knows better than anyone that they must constantly seek to replace customers who die from using their products.
ASH and the world’s public health community stand with Balanga and the right of all governments to legislate in the public interest. Public health should be prioritized over corporate profits. The tobacco epidemic has raged for a century. It is time to put an end to it.