Philip Morris Worldwide (PMI), the tobacco and vaping firm behind Marlboro cigarettes, is waging an enormous lobbying marketing campaign to forestall international locations from cracking down on vapes and comparable merchandise as a part of a world treaty, a leaked e mail reveals.
The corporate, which has been more and more specializing in smoke-free merchandise as governments tighten rules on cigarettes, made $10.19bn (£8.3bn) in revenues from merchandise resembling heated tobacco and digital cigarettes in 2022.
In a message despatched by the PMI’s senior vice-president of exterior affairs final month and seen by the Guardian, workers have been advised to search out “any connection, any lead, whether or not political or technical” earlier than a gathering of delegates from 182 international locations. He described the agenda for the assembly of the World Well being Group as a “prohibitionist assault” on smoke-free merchandise.
There may be rising scrutiny of vaping merchandise, with ministers within the UK taking step one in direction of banning candy-coloured disposable e-cigarettes in England. A session has been launched on plans to crack down on vaping by younger individuals and ban smoking altogether, to create the primary “smoke-free era”. The well being secretary, Steve Barclay, stated this month he was involved about figures that confirmed the variety of kids who vaped had tripled prior to now three years.
The WHO framework conference on tobacco management (FCTC), which takes place subsequent month in Panama, will talk about doable regulation, together with taxation, on smoke-free merchandise.
Within the e mail, PMI steered it had seen the agenda for the conference, which targeted on smoke-free merchandise. In 2016, the tobacco firm introduced a change of its enterprise away from cigarettes and set itself an goal to interchange them with heated tobacco merchandise, e-vapour merchandise and nicotine pouches.
In 2022, PMI shipped 621bn cigarettes, based on its annual outcomes. Nevertheless, a few third of its revenues have been derived from smoke-free merchandise, whereas the quantity of flamable tobacco merchandise decreased by 27%.
Its vaping and heated tobacco manufacturers embrace IQOS, Bonds and Veev and it launched its first disposable system within the UK this yr, the Veeba.
The e-mail despatched on 22 September by Grégoire Verdeaux, the senior vice-president of exterior affairs at PMI, stated: “The agenda and assembly paperwork have been made public for the principle half. Sadly they reconfirmed each concern we had that this convention might stay as the most important missed alternative ever in tobacco management’s historical past … WHO’s agenda is nothing wanting a scientific, methodical, prohibitionist assault on smoke-free merchandise.”
With out “affordable, constructive outcomes” , Verdeaux wrote, the “WHO may have irreversibly compromised the historic alternative for public well being offered by the popularity that smoke-free merchandise, appropriately regulated, can speed up the decline of smoking charges sooner than tobacco management mixed”.
He stated that for the final 18 months his firm had labored to “leverage the proper assist” on the assembly, however added: “At this stage we’re not the place we wish to be – when it comes to intelligence, positions and delegations.” Verdeaux stated that after they have been “really decided” then they managed to “transfer the needle”. He urged: “There may be nonetheless time.”
The e-mail continued: “So this message to ask you, as lead of the EA [external affairs] perform, to do this last-minute effort. Each nation, no matter its dimension, issues”. Verdeaux stated it was prepared “to place up any connection, any lead, whether or not political or technical, together with these from our native enterprise companions” who typically have been “mission important in our smaller markets”.
Tobacco corporations should not invited to the occasion and Verdeaux stated regardless of this he could be in Panama “to publicly denounce the absurdity of being excluded from it whereas PMI right this moment” was “undoubtedly probably the most useful non-public companion WHO may have within the combat in opposition to smoking”. He ended the e-mail: “No matter occurs we’re on the proper aspect of historical past. However it is going to be a small consolation if we let prohibitionists have it their method.”
“Time is of the essence”, he stated, and the implications for grownup people who smoke and “our enterprise could be materials”.
Requested in regards to the leaked e mail, Verdeaux stated in a press release: “What I say publicly and what I say to our workers is strictly the identical: I’m proud to make the case to governments and media that innovation drives down smoking charges sooner and for that cause needs to be supported and controlled. The WHO FCTC convention is held behind closed doorways however needs to be an open discussion board the place scientists, shoppers and corporations are additionally heard. I’ll be on website in Panama and gladly invite anybody to debate this publicly with me.”
There was rising concern in regards to the rising variety of younger individuals utilizing e-cigarettes. Within the UK, main medical doctors and councils have welcomed experiences that ministers are getting ready to ban single-use vapes.
Prof Steve Turner, registrar for the Royal Faculty of Paediatrics and Little one Well being, stated his UK colleagues have been “actually frightened” about younger individuals vaping. He added that vapes have been an “efficient entry into nicotine habit and smoking”. The scenario was “a public well being catastrophe” and “kids shouldn’t be changing into hooked on nicotine”, he stated.
Australia has banned all vaping with no prescription, Germany prohibited flavoured e-cigarettes and New Zealand outlawed most disposable vapes and put curbs on advertising and marketing to kids. This month, France additionally introduced it’s planning to ban all disposable e-cigarettes.