Tobacco giant Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM) has released an ad campaign in the United Kingdom that indicate the company is moving away from its core product – cigarettes. The company said in the full page ads that its new ambition in 2018 is to build a smoke-free future. To that end, the company is shifting its focus to smoke-free alternatives like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.
Philip Morris is the maker of six of the world’s top cigarette brands, including Marlboro, L&M, Parliament and Chesterfield. Philip Morris International does not currently sell any products in the U.S. market. Marlboro cigarettes that are sold in the U.S. are made by Philip Morris USA, a branch of Altria.
Cigarettes claim millions of lives each year. According to Phillip Morris, there are 7.6 million adults in the UK who smoke. The company’s website says, “we can achieve a significant public-health benefit only when a large number of these smokers switch from cigarettes to better products.”
Phillip Morris claims the alternatives are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. The company said in a statement, “Providing less harmful alternatives to smokers who would otherwise not quit is a common-sense approach to public health, embraced by a growing number of experts and health authorities worldwide.” However, there is little scientific evidence that its smoke-free products are less harmful than cigarettes. The NHS website states that “we won’t have a full picture on their safety until they have been in use for many years.”
Philip Morris has also created a new website called “Smoke-Free Future” that focuses on providing information about quitting smoking and using other products. As increasing numbers of consumers turn against smoking, focusing on alternative products offers a way for the company to generate future profits. The company said it had spent $3.4 billion on research into smoke-free products. Philip Morris also currently funds The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.
The company also pledged to help support people trying to quit smoking. As part of that pledge, Phillip Morris said that it would work with the government on including information on quitting and switching in its cigarette packets. Peter Nixon, managing director of Philip Morris, said he believed the company had “an important role to play in helping the UK become smoke-free.”
Some are wondering if this is all nothing more than a public relations stunt. The Philip Morris ad itself states: “No cigarette company has done anything like this before. You might wonder if we really mean it.” Time will tell.