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April 28, 2020
Tobacco

TAKE ACTION: Demand PMI pay for its abuses

In two weeks, the CEO of Philip Morris International (PMI) will virtually address investors and media cameras at the corporation’s annual shareholders’ meeting. He’ll trumpet the profitability of one of the largest tobacco corporations on the planet, maintaining its relevancy of a deadly product even in the midst of a deadly pandemic. He’ll probably unveil some slick new PR designed to trick people into thinking Big Tobacco is turning over a new leaf.

He probably won’t mention that tobacco-related illness kills nearly 8 million people each year: still the number one cause of preventable death in the world.

He’ll probably conveniently leave out the fact that PMI continues to aggressively peddle its deadly products, especially in the Global South — selling over 700 billion cigarettes globally just last year.

And he almost certainly won’t admit that the millions of dollars PMI has spent in the last few years trying to spin its deadly brand as “smoke-free” are nothing more than a PR-fueled smokescreen.

It’s high time this corporation — and the rest of the tobacco industry — stop funding PR schemes and start paying for its abuses. Take action to demand government officials around the world make Big Tobacco pay.

PMI’s annual shareholders’ meeting is a critical moment to ramp up pressure on the corporation: It’s a moment when investors, shareholders, and the media are all paying extra attention. Powerful health officials from around the globe are watching too. But they also have their eyes on something else: the upcoming meetings of the global tobacco treaty this fall.

These treaty meetings, which only happen every two years, are a critical opportunity: They’re where global health leaders can advance binding international policies to hold Big Tobacco accountable — including by making the industry pay for its abuses. And while these meetings may end up being delayed or remote, it doesn’t mean decisions aren’t being made. Governments are already starting to craft these policies now. Tell government leaders from around the globe: Don’t be fooled by PMI’s PR stunts. Make Big Tobacco pay.

You and I both know that Big Tobacco by any other name is still lethal. In the last few years, tobacco corporations like PMI have launched aggressive PR and marketing schemes. They’re rolling out new electronic devices with misleading health claims.

PMI has gone so far as to claim it wants to be “smoke-free.” And it’s even launched a multi-million dollar foundation designed to help paint Big Tobacco as part of the solution to the very epidemic it created.

Make no mistake: Big Tobacco’s tactics are a direct response to the movement people like you have helped build. Together, you’ve compelled the industry to retire its kid-targeted marketing icons. You’ve kicked it out of policymaking spaces around the world. And you’ve helped secure the global tobacco treaty, which holds powerful measures that are reining in this abusive industry and saving millions of people’s lives.

That’s why Big Tobacco is fighting tooth and nail to protect its profits. But it’s no match for the power of the people, united.

As PMI prepares to put on a show for its shareholders, now is the time to challenge PMI executives and tell global decision-makers: Stop Big Tobacco’s deadly schemes. Make Big Tobacco pay for its abuses.

Thank you for all you do to challenge corporate power and protect people’s health.