Philip Morris’ Stop Smoking Campaign

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Think of who would be most likely to run a stop smoking campaign. You might be think of the World Health Organization, or a government health department or a non-profit. What probably wouldn’t come to your mind is a cigarette manufacturer. However, Philip Morris International, the makers of Marlboro, released ads in several U.K. newspaper last month urging smokers to quit smoking. This campaign has come under attack, with accusations against the company for being hypocritical.

Philip Morris International’s ‘Hold My Light’ campaign features a video and a website where smokers can sign up to help them kick the habit. Signing up to the programs involves the company contacting them about its Smoke Free Future program. The company has described the campaign as an “important next step” for the company to “ultimately stop selling cigarettes.”

While cigarettes represent Philip Morris International’s major revenue source, the company long term vision involves replacing cigarette sales with products that the company claims to be less dangerous such as IQOS tobacco-heating device.

Manager director of Philip Morris, Peter Nixon said, “There are more options than ever before for smokers to give up cigarettes but often they don’t realize that alternatives, like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco are a better choice than continuing to smoke.”

“Our research has shown that smokers want personal support from friends and family if they are to give up cigarettes — and that is what Hold My Light is designed to offer.”

Charity Cancer Research U.K. was quick to criticize Philip Morris International’s campaign. “This is a staggering hypocrisy from a tobacco company to promote its own smoking cessation products in the U.K. while continuing to promote tobacco cigarettes across the world,” said George Butterworth, the charity’s Tobacco Policy Manager. “The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes.”

On its website, the company provides it makes 800 billion cigarettes each year. The U.K. has banned cigarette advertising and requires them to be sold with plain packaging and health warnings. Philip Morris International was one of the tobacco companies which fought against this regulation by pursuing a legal challenge to block plain packaging laws.

However, British health regulators have also endorsed e-cigarettes as a way to help people quit and Philip Morris International seems to be taking advantage of this.

“The campaign is simply PR puff. A massively profitable global tobacco company is selling the line that they’ve turned over a new leaf in an effort to flog their latest gadgets”, said Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy for Action on Smoking and Health. “If they were serious about a smoke-free world they wouldn’t challenge tobacco legislation around the world but instead support regulations that will really help smokers quit and prevent children from taking up smoking.”

The main problem with the campaign is that it’s being sold as a public health campaign — however, this couldn’t be further from the truth and people can see through the facade.

-5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian

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Written by

Ronn Torossian is CEO & Founder of 5WPR & one of America’s most notable PR executives. He is the Author of best-selling PR book, “For Immediate Release.“

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