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Home / World / Open Letter to Philip Morris International (PMI)

Open Letter to Philip Morris International (PMI)

September 14, 2017

André Calantzopoulos
Chief Executive Officer
Philip Morris International
Avenue de Rhodanie 50 1007
Lausanne, Switzerland

Dear Mr. Calantzopoulos,

The undersigned organizations, representing global health, human rights, consumer protection, medical and other organizations, call on you to immediately cease the production, marketing and sale of cigarettes. This action is at least half a century overdue, and tens of millions have died unnecessarily as a direct result of tobacco use.

In 1954, Philip Morris promised to “stop business tomorrow” if it became apparent that cigarettes are harmful to health. This promise was repeated for decades, most recently in 1997 by Philip Morris CEO Geoffrey Bible, who responded to the question “What he would do with his manufacturing plants if scientists proved that cigarettes were a cause of cancer?” by saying he would “shut it down instantly. ”We know from Philip Morris’ own internal documents that the company was aware that cigarettes were harmful even in 1954; by 1997 Mr. Bible’s response was simply absurd in the face of overwhelming scientific proof.

Cigarettes cannot be “re-engineered” to make them acceptable in global commerce; they are inherently defective. There is no safe level of consumption, and they provide no necessary benefit to their consumers.

Given the deadly nature of tobacco smoke, and the extremely addictive nature of nicotine, the marketing and sale of cigarettes violates several universally accepted human rights, in particular the right to life and the right to health. In May 2017, a human rights organization that had been engaged in voluntary collaboration with PMI, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, ended its relationship with your company and concluded that “According to the UNGPs [United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] companies should avoid causing or contributing to adverse impacts on human rights. Where such impacts occur, companies should immediately cease the actions that cause or contribute to the impacts. 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.”

The front page of PMI’s own website depicts a video of employees “Designing a Smoke-Free Future.” Your rationale includes “because…society expects us to act responsibly.” If, by your own logic, acting responsibly requires you to stop selling cigarettes, by what ethical rubric can you continue to sell them? The only possible explanation is that you feel you can still profit from doing so. That decision – to continue a business model that you have admitted is irresponsible – is unacceptable. And to continue profiting from a product that you know will kill a significant proportion of your customers when used as intended is monstrous.

PMI, its shareholders, and you personally have been enriched while knowingly killing your customers. You have it in your immediate power to change the fate of millions of people, perhaps hundreds of millions. Do the right thing by immediately ceasing the production, marketing and sale of cigarettes.

Signed,

ACT Promoção de Saúde (ACT Health Promotion, from Brazil)
Action on Smoking and Health Foundation (Thailand)
Action on Smoking and Health New Zealand
Action on Smoking and Health (US)
African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA)
Airspace Action on Smoking and Health
Alliance of Women against Tobacco (Tabinaj) (Bangladesh)
American Cancer Society, Inc.
American College of Chest Physicians
Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights
ASH Finland
ASH Scotland (UK)
Asia-Pacific Heart Network
Association for the Prevention of Addictions (Bulgaria)
Association of Medical Students in Bulgaria
Belgian Foundation Against Cancer
BlueLink Foundation (Bulgaria)
Breathe Free (Bulgaria)
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Cancer Aid Society, India
Cancer Society of Finland
CIPRET-Vaud
Coalición Panameña Contra el Tabaquismo (COPACET)
Coalition Camerounaise Contre le Tabac
College of Global Public Health at New York University
Comité National Contre le Tabagisme
Committee / Unesco University Club for the Fight against Drugs and Other Pandemics (CLUCOD)
Community Nursing Association
Corporate Accountability International
Danish Cancer Society
Danish Heart Foundation
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pneumologie und Beatmungsmedizin e.V.
DNF-Droits des Non-Fumeurs
Dutch Alliance for a Smokefree Society
EHYT Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention
Environmental Rights Action / Friends of the Earth Nigeria
Ethical Shareholders Association Germany
European COPD Coalition (ECC)
European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention
European Respiratory Society (ERS)
Evidence-based Health Policy Development (EBHPD)
FCTC Implementation and Monitoring Center in Georgia
Finnish Heart Association
Finnish Lung Health Association
FOMCA
German Medical Action Group Smoking or Health
Global Bridges
Global Economic Law Network, Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne
Global Network for Tobacco Free Health Services
Green Hand Organization – Lebanon
Healis – Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health
Health and Trade Network
Health Jurists Association
Human Rights and Tobacco Control Network
Indian Cancer Society, Delhi
Institute for Youth Participation, Health and Sustainable Development
InterAmerican Heart Foundation
International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
INWAT Europe
Israel Cancer Association
Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control
Jeewaka Foundation – Sri Lanka
Jogja Sehat Tanpa Tembakau (JSTT / Tobacco-free Healthy Jogja)
Lithuanian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition
Madrid Association of Public Health
Mexico Salud-Hable Coalition
National Alliance for Tobacco Control (ALIENTO)
NCD Alliance
New Vois Ass’n. of the Phils. Inc.
No Excuse Slovenia
Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) Roundtable
Norwegian Cancer Society
ORGANIZACION 3600 BOLIVIA
OxyRomandie
Patients’ Organization “With you!” (Bulgaria)
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
Policlinique médicale universitaire CH-Lausanne
`Pratyasha’ Anti-Drug’s Club
PROGGA
Progressive Reinforcement of Organizations and Individuals
Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law
Public Health Association of Australia
Public Health Society of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands
Research and Training Centre for Community Development (RTCCD)
SELBAR – Selangor Bebas Asap Rokok
SERAC-Bangladesh
Slovenian Coalition for Public Health, Environment and Tobacco Control
Smart International
Smoke Free Agents
Smoke Free Bulgaria – Civic Iniciative
Smoke Free Life Coalition Bulgaria
Smoke Free Israel
Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance
Spanish Primary Care Network
Spanish Society of Environmental Health
Spanish Society of Epidemiology
Spanish Society of Public Health and Health Administration
Swarna Hansa Foundation
Swiss Association for Tobacco Prevention
T&T Consulting Limited
Tanzania Tobacco Control Forum
The Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH)
The Austrian Council on Smoking and Health
The French Alliance against Tobacco
The Heart Foundation of Jamaica
The Organisation for Respiratory Health in Finland
Tobacco-free Finland
Tobacco Alcohol Free Initiative, (TAFI), Eldoret, Kenya
Tobacco Free Association of Zambia
TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland (TFRI)
Truth Initiative
UBINIG Policy Research for Development Alternative
Ukrainian NGO Advocacy Center “LIFE”
Unfairtobacco
Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)
Vietnam Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (NCDs-VN)
Vietnam Public Health Association
Vision for Alternative Development (Ghana)
Vital Strategies
World Federation of Public Health Associations
YPCDN
Zambia Consumer Association
Zambia Heart and Stroke Foundation

Academics
Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH
Dean, College of Global Public Health at New York University

Gary Fooks
Co-Director, Centre for the Critical Inquiry into Society and Culture, School of Languages and Social Science, Aston University, UK

Gérard Dubois
Membre de l’Académie de Médecine (France)

Ronald Labonté, FCAHS, HonFFPH
Professor and Canada Research Chair (Globalization and Health Equity), School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa, Canada

Ruth Malone, RN, PhD, FAAN
Professor and Nursing Alumni/Mary Harms Endowed Chair, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco; Editor-in-Chief, Tobacco Control