Philip Morris Wants World to Be Smoke-Free but Still Addicted

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Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE: PMI) wants the world to be free of tobacco smoke. However, the huge tobacco giant wants to replace traditional tobacco products with others that are probably highly addictive. And Philip Morris is going to great lengths to convince the world of the benefits of that decision.

Philip Morris has moved its position on smoked tobacco products: They are dangerous to health, and people should not have started smoking at all. If this had been its position decades ago, it would have gone out of business. But those days are so long gone that the company says it has devoted the work of over 400 scientists and engineers and invested $5 billion to find smoked tobacco alternatives.

Among the things that stand in the way of Philip Morris’s new strategy is that regulation will make its planned metamorphosis difficult, if not impossible. To overcome the problem, Philip Morris has a series of plans to move away from smoked products. Management stated the foundation of its new programs and the cooperation it would need to fulfill them:

But we cannot do it alone. The time has come to have an open, meaningful dialogue about the role smoke-free products can play in the improvement of public health, and the effect current legislation in many countries has in preventing adult smokers from getting all available information. We’re therefore calling on leaders, policy makers, scientists, health professionals, and society as a whole to join this conversation – with the goal to achieve a smoke-free future as soon as possible.

It is a sort of planned mass lobbying. And at its core is the argument that the smokeless products it makes are better for health than those that create smoke.

Management recently wrote:

Our scientific results to date point in the direction that switching completely to these products is likely to present less harm than continued smoking. It makes no sense to deny adult smokers access to better alternatives.

The argument may not be true, but Philip Morris knows that worldwide efforts to cut smoking will erode its sales, even if those efforts are slow to yield results and could take years. And, as that erosion continues, Philip Morris wants to change itself into an entirely new company, or at least that is what it looks like.