American Cigarette maker pledges USD1 billion to cut smoking globally

In what may sound to many as some odd news, Philip Morris International said it will commit around USD1 billion in its bid to reduce the prevalence of smoking.

The maker of Marlboro cigarettes is said to be funding a group that aims to convert smokers into consumers of devices that don’t burn tobacco.

In a recent statement it was confirmed that Derek Yach, a former World Health Organization official who worked on a global tobacco treaty, will lead the group, Bloomberg reports. The cigarette maker said it plans to spend about USD80 million annually over 12 years on the project, starting in 2018.

The Foundation will fund research and encourage innovative measures to reduce the harm caused by smoking. It will evaluate the impact that smoke-free alternatives can have on smokers and public health, assess the effect of reduced cigarette consumption on the industry value chain, and measure overall progress towards a smoke-free world.

André Calantzopoulos, Chief Executive Officer of PMI, said, “There is a unique opportunity today to significantly change the health trajectories of the millions of men and women who continue to smoke by offering them a better choice. The Foundation is a welcome driver of change, at a time when a smoke-free future is clearly on the horizon. We will welcome its recommendations to accelerate smoker adoption of less harmful alternatives.”

PMI currently expects to support the Foundation by contributing approximately USD 80 million per year, depending on the Foundation’s requirements and operations, over the next 12 years, beginning in 2018. This sustained support reflects PMI’s commitment to making a smoke-free world a reality.

The Foundation is an independent body, governed by its Board of Directors.

While the new foundation appears to be a rare example of a consumer-goods company supporting efforts to undermine sales of its own products, its creation was greeted with skepticism by one anti-smoking organization.

“The tobacco industry has a terrible track record of funding research designed to support its efforts to block policies to cut smoking,” Deborah Arnott, chief executive of London-based Action on Smoking and Health, said in a statement. “Tobacco industry claims can never be accepted at face value.”