The tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI) has long been ingratiating itself to the anti-smokers. Meanwhile, it is counting on its new IQOS heaters to profit from the increasing fight against classic tobacco products with their “Heet” sticks. Netzwerk Rauchen says: Do not buy!
“I Love You Phillip Morris” is the title of a movie starring Jim Carrey in 2009. Not meant was the cigarette company Philip Morris (with only one “l”) and by no means would Netzwerk Rauchen have come to associate such a title with the tobacco company. After all, we have very different feelings towards the company. Even back in 2007 we called for a boycott of Philip Morris products. Developments since, especially very recent ones, have proved us more than right.
Philip Morris International (PMI), the non-American branch of the multinational company since 2008, recently launched a campaign called “Unsmoke“. This slogan held in the best Orwellian Newspeak conveys the message that you should never smoke – but if you really need to, it is absolutely necessary to switch to the PMI product IQOS with its “heets”, a tobacco heater.
In Switzerland, the local PMI boss explains: “Smokers no longer have a reason to choose cigarettes.” As the German PMI boss states: “For years, we have been committed ourselves to a ‘smoke-free future’”.
Anti-smoking slogans like these from the mouth of a corporation that has long been the market leader in industrial cigarettes in many countries sound surprising. In Germany too, the producer of brands such as Marlboro, L & M, Chesterfield or F6 dominates as the largest supplier. And now the corporation expresses their gratitude for their customers’ loyalty by claiming they no longer want them to consume their flagship products anymore?
But those who witnessed the market giant’s u-turn 20 years ago are not surprised by anything anymore more. At that time the US corporate headquarters apparently decided to want to cry with the anti-tobacco wolves to secure their business. Instead of occasionally taking an aggressive stance against the fight against tobacco as was previously the case, it was decided to pay tribute to the health puritanism following the motto: “If you can’t beat them, join them”. No more criticism of the scientifically refutable passive smoking danger, no further questioning of the discrimination of smokers.
Therefore PMI retired from the German industry association VdC (Verband der Cigarettenindustrie) in 2007, which sealed the VdC’s fate. PMI also did not join the newly founded DZV (German Cigarette Association), but has since played their own game.
In the meantime, the company has even set up their own anti-smoking foundation. After all, if you no longer want to stand up to tobacco control, but insinuate yourself into its good graces, you can at least cause some damage to your competitors… According to the author Christopher Snowdon, Philip Morris owes its dominant position in the United States to the first advertising bans 50 years ago, as these bans are known to have stabilised Marlboro’s market leadership). Prior to these, the top position of the various brands was still vehemently contested.
For example, Philip Morris likes to advocate government regulation that harms their competitors more than themselves, e.g. as in the case of advertising bans or the higher taxation of lose tobacco, which is not part of their core business. In 2009, Philip Morris even fought side by side with the most vicious anti-smoking lobbies in the USA for the “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act”, which critics baptised “Marlboro Protection ACT” or “Monopoly ACT” because this act – long demanded by PM – handed the regulatory power of tobacco products to the US Food and Drug Administration FDA. This means the hurdles for competing products are increased whilst PM calculate their benefits of their new developments.
And that brings us back to IQOS and the Heets. In German tobacco shops one encounters aggressive advertising for these tobacco heaters, in the form of signs, bill boards or similar, and even personally present advertisers. On the Zeil shopping promenade in Frankfurt/Main, the largest “IQOS boutique” of the world, covering two floors, was opened. A further 50 of these advertising temples of the sort exist in Germany. The Heets tobacco is taxed as pipe tobacco in Germany, so the taxation burden is much less than it is for cigarettes. This is something consumers won’t notice in their purses, though … PM are expecting to make a killing whilst at the same time PMI Germany is planning to cut nearly 1000 jobs, which has led to protests, at their Berlin production site by the end of the year.
Do these jobs no longer fit into the “smoke-free future”? Well, production is being shifted. The group, which has a stock market value of about $ 120 billion, makes its net revenue of approximately $ 30 billion, of which more than 9 billion in the EU alone, mainly as a result of cigarettes. For years, the dividend of shareholders has been rising. Incidentally, this shows that tobacco control is far less damaging to global corporations than to tobacco smokers and the smaller companies in the value-added chain.
And that explains why PMI pretends they do not want us to buy their cigarettes – but still continue making them. PM, sell your brands, especially Marlboro, for a packet to the competition and stake everything on your Heets! Oh wait, no … damned hypocrites in the old tradition of American Puritanism.
Instead, one wants to establish the Heets as the supposedly ‘better’ product, so as to curry favour with the anti-smokers’ quest. That way one can celebrate restrictions on smoking tobacco or even demand them, as long as the heaters remain unaffected by them. PMI board member Jacek Olzak, for example, is asking for “accelerating the positive change” – from classic tobacco products to its IQOS – “through progressive regulatory measures.” Progressive as in a progressive disease, as lifestyle discrimination and governments’ paternalism, indeed, rapidly progresses.
As an analogy, Olzak uses energy-saving light bulbs and the EU ban on conventional light bulbs: “If the technology is there and the new product can perfectly replace the previous one, change will inevitably set in.” The manager, who makes millions of dollars per year, does not seem to be the brightest bulb in the tanning bed. Energy-saving light bulbs have never been able to adequately replace conventional light bulbs in their function, their product safety and their price-performance ratio. Their replacement was not “inevitable”, but by Brussels excommunication. Perhaps PMI should advertise IQOS-Heets as the “energy-saving light bulb amongst the tobacco products”, so that it finally dawns on the customers that the light at the end of the tunnel is that of an oncoming train.
This product (IQOS-Heets) was approved in the US by the above-mentioned FDA – it was worth the years of hard lobbying for PM. The FDA is currently planning to lower nicotine limits in tobacco products. PMI can live quite happily with that, the sticks each contain 0.5 milligrams of nicotine, thus contain half of the EU mandated maximum permissible value. That’s how you prepare yourself purposefully.
PMI would face problems though when it comes to cigarettes: Most of their brands contain more nicotine and the attempt of a small reduction appears to have failed in Germany. This can be seen when comparing the values published by Netzwerk Rauchen on the Internet each year: By the 2017 deadline, Marlboro, L & M and Chesterfields Reds were found to be reduced to just 0.7 mg nicotine, 0.1 mg less than in the previous year. In Chesterfield Blues the value dropped from 0.6 to 0.5 mg. In the following year 2018, these changes were apparently reversed. Maybe it should dawn on PMI managers that they are digging their own graves. Or maybe they continue to insist that their support of the health craze leads to a regulatory situation in which products such as IQOS will be used as smoker’s “methadone”(substitution) to replace the classical tobacco products banned by then.
This is for Netzwerk Rauchen a reason to renew our call on politically aware consumers for a boycott:
Stop these wheelings and dealings, do not buy their products – and do not buy PMI or Altria shares!
(Disclaimer: We do not want to make a pitch for the competitors of PMI. Other tobacco companies, unfortunately, curry favor with tobacco control and often behave not very consumer friendly, just not as extreme as Philip Morris.)
This article was originally published in German by Netzwerk Rauchen.