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July, 2017:

Philip Morris takes aim at young people in India, and health officials are fuming

The tobacco giant is pushing Marlboros in colorful ads at kiosks and handing out free smokes at parties frequented by young adults – tactics that break India’s anti-smoking laws, government officials say. Internal documents uncovered by Reuters illuminate the strategy.

http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/pmi-india/

S. K. Arora spent more than three years trudging through the Indian summer heat and monsoon rains to inspect tobacco kiosks across this sprawling megacity, tearing down cigarette advertisements and handing out fines to store owners for putting them up.

But as fast as he removed the colorful ads, more appeared.

The chief tobacco control officer at the Delhi state government, Arora asked the major cigarette companies to put a stop to the cat-and-mouse routine. In official letters and face-to-face meetings, he told them India’s tobacco control laws barred such public advertising and promotion of cigarettes.

That included the Indian arm of Philip Morris International Inc, the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company. Early last year, Arora said, he met with a Philip Morris director for corporate affairs in India, a man named R. Venkatesh, and told him the signs were an unequivocal violation of Indian law.

Like other tobacco companies, Philip Morris kept up its ad blitz.

Venkatesh says Philip Morris is doing nothing wrong. In response to questions from Reuters, he said the company’s advertising is “compliant with Indian law” and that Philip Morris has “fully cooperated with the enforcement authorities” on the matter.

But Indian government officials say Philip Morris is using methods that flout the nation’s tobacco-control regulations. These include tobacco shop displays as well as the free distribution of Marlboro – the world’s best-selling cigarette brand – at nightclubs and bars frequented by young people.

In internal documents, Philip Morris International is explicit about targeting the country’s youth. A key goal is “winning the hearts and minds of LA-24,” those between legal age, 18, and 24, according to one slide in a 2015 commercial review presentation.

As with the point-of-sale ads at kiosks, public health officials say that giving away cigarettes is a violation of India’s Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act and its accompanying rules.

Philip Morris’ marketing strategy for India, which relies heavily on kiosk advertising and social events, is laid out in hundreds of pages of internal documents reviewed by Reuters that cover the period from 2009 to 2016. In them, Philip Morris presents these promotions as key marketing activities. In recent years, they have helped to more than quadruple Marlboro’s market share in India, where the company is battling to expand its reach in the face of an entrenched local giant. Reuters is publishing a selection of those documents in a searchable repository, The Philip Morris Files.

The company’s goal is to make sure that “every adult Indian smoker should be able to buy Marlboro within walking distance,” according to another 2015 strategy document.

In targeting young adults, Philip Morris is deploying a promotional strategy that it and other tobacco companies used in the United States decades ago. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2002 found that during the 1990s, “tobacco industry sponsorship of bars and nightclubs increased dramatically, accompanied by cigarette brand paraphernalia, advertisements, and entertainment events in bars and clubs.”

With cigarette sales declining in many countries, Philip Morris has identified India, population 1.3 billion, as a market with opportunity for significant growth. “India remains a high potential market with huge upside with cigarette market still in infancy,” says a 2014 internal document.

According to government data, India has about 100 million smokers. Of those, about two-thirds smoke traditional hand-rolled cigarettes. Tobacco use kills more than 900,000 people a year in India, and the World Health Organization estimates that tobacco-related diseases cost the country about $16 billion annually.

Philip Morris is not alone in using marketing methods that Indian officials say are illegal. The country’s largest cigarette maker, ITC Ltd, uses similar tactics, such as advertising at kiosks. British American Tobacco Plc and Indian state-run companies have large, passive stakes in ITC, which controls about 80 percent of the market.

Tobacco-control officer Arora, a short, mustachioed man with a gruff demeanor, sent a letter to Philip Morris and other tobacco companies in mid-April, giving them until the end of the month to remove all advertisements. “Legal action will be initiated against the company” if it did not comply, he wrote in the letters, copies of which were reviewed by Reuters.

A day after Arora’s deadline passed, he and his team conducted a raid in an affluent area of cafes and coffee shops in New Delhi that showed his letters did not have the desired effect.

On that hot afternoon in May, the team cut down about a dozen advertisements for Marlboro and various ITC brands. As word of the raid spread, worried vendors covered their ads with newspapers or took them down.

One kiosk owner, Rakesh Kumar Jain, removed his Marlboro ads before Arora’s team arrived. Jain said the signs had been put up by Philip Morris representatives. In return, he said, he received free cigarettes each month worth about 2,000 rupees (about $30). Jain knew that putting up the posters was illegal, but they helped improve sales, he said.

About a dozen kiosk owners interviewed by Reuters said that tobacco companies paid them a monthly fee for advertisements and product displays, with the amount determined by factors such as location, volume of business and type of promotional material.

In payment receipts seen by Reuters, Philip Morris’ India unit promised to pay 500 Indian rupees ($7.50) a month to a cigarette seller with a small roadside kiosk in New Delhi for putting up Marlboro ads. The receipts were signed by a company representative.

During the raid, fines were issued to some vendors, many of them repeat offenders, and they were threatened with court action if the ads went up again.

Like Philip Morris, ITC says that it is in full compliance with India’s 2003 tobacco control law. If it wasn’t, the company said in a statement to Reuters, then “the relevant government authorities would have initiated action.”

Since Arora’s threat of legal action in April, there are fewer Philip Morris advertisements outside cigarette shops in the capital. But both Philip Morris and ITC say that advertising inside a shop is allowed.

“Advertisements of tobacco products at the entrance and inside the shops selling tobacco products are clearly and categorically permitted,” ITC said in response to questions from Reuters.

Arora, however, said all advertising is prohibited – “There are no two ways about it,” he insisted – but he can’t start legal proceedings until getting further guidance from the federal government. He has yet to receive an answer.

Federal health officials say in interviews that the ads are out of bounds. Amal Pusp, a director for tobacco control at the health ministry, told Reuters that “there is no confusion”: All advertisements – inside and outside shops – are illegal.

The 2003 law allows tobacco companies to advertise at shops, but subsequent rules issued by the government prohibit it.

“India remains a high potential market with huge upside with cigarette market still in infancy.”

From a 2014 internal Philip Morris document

In 2004, India became one of the first countries to ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) treaty. The pact has 181 members and contains a raft of anti-smoking provisions, including tobacco taxes, warning labels on cigarette packs and advertising bans. The country enacted its national tobacco control law the year before ratifying the FCTC, and since then the government has added rules to strengthen the law in line with the treaty’s provisions.

The health ministry published rules in 2005 that banned any display of brand names, pack images or promotional messages. The rule specified that tobacco retailers could only display a 60-by-45 centimeter board, roughly 24 by 18 inches. The sign can have a description of the type of tobacco products sold – such as cigarettes or chewing tobacco – but cannot include any brand advertising and must carry a large health warning.

The health ministry’s rules were challenged in court by a group of cigarette distributors and put on hold by a state-level High Court for seven years. They finally came into force in 2013 on orders of India’s Supreme Court.

The High Court had overlooked the fact that advertisement of tobacco products “will attract younger generation and innocent minds, who are not aware of grave and adverse consequences of consuming such products,” the Supreme Court said in its ruling.

Philip Morris has lobbied against the passing of stricter tobacco control rules by the Indian government. In documents detailing the company’s plans for the biennial FCTC treaty convention in India last November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emerges as a prime target. A key goal: to pre-empt Modi from taking “extreme anti-tobacco measures” before delegates were to gather from around the world for the treaty meeting, according to a 2014 corporate affairs PowerPoint presentation.

Excerpts from the Philip Morris Files

Reuters reviewed hundreds of pages of internal Philip Morris International documents relating to India. These excerpts show the company’s marketing and lobbying tactics, which are aimed at bolstering the Marlboro brand among young adults and blocking the “enactment of extreme anti-tobacco measures.” Letters from Indian officials detail the government’s efforts to enforce the country’s tobacco control regulations. (Some documents include highlighting by Reuters.)

A slide from a Philip Morris training manual shows the kinds of people the company aims to target for Marlboro sales in India. LAS = legal age smokers.

A slide from a Philip Morris training manual shows the kinds of people the company aims to target for Marlboro sales in India. LAS = legal age smokers.

A slide from a 2014 strategy presentation shows Philip Morris’ goals for marketing Marlboro Red in India. LA-24 = legal age to 24-year-old smokers.

A slide from a 2014 strategy presentation shows Philip Morris’ goals for marketing Marlboro Red in India. LA-24 = legal age to 24-year-old smokers.

This slide from a 2012 marketing presentation shows where Philip Morris planned to target 18-to-24-year-old smokers in India.

This slide from a 2012 marketing presentation shows where Philip Morris planned to target 18-to-24-year-old smokers in India.

A Philip Morris training manual lays out rules for how those marketing its cigarettes should look. FWP = field work personnel.

A Philip Morris training manual lays out rules for how those marketing its cigarettes should look. FWP = field work personnel.

Another slide from the Philip Morris training manual includes instructions for company representatives handing out free cigarettes at kiosks as part of brand promotion. (IPM = India Philip Morris; GPI = Godfrey Phillips India; POS = point of sale.)

Another slide from the Philip Morris training manual includes instructions for company representatives handing out free cigarettes at kiosks as part of brand promotion. (IPM = India Philip Morris; GPI = Godfrey Phillips India; POS = point of sale.)

Kiosk owners in Delhi say that Philip Morris pays them a monthly fee to put up its advertisements. Names have been redacted on this Philip Morris receipt.

Kiosk owners in Delhi say that Philip Morris pays them a monthly fee to put up its advertisements. Names have been redacted on this Philip Morris receipt.

Keshav Desiraju, then a senior health ministry official, wrote to state governments in January 2013, instructing them to stop all tobacco advertisements.

Keshav Desiraju, then a senior health ministry official, wrote to state governments in January 2013, instructing them to stop all tobacco advertisements.

 In April, S.K. Arora, the chief tobacco control officer in Delhi, warned Philip Morris International in a letter that it could face legal action over its advertising.

In April, S.K. Arora, the chief tobacco control officer in Delhi, warned Philip Morris International in a letter that it could face legal action over its advertising.

An excerpt from a 2013 letter from a health ministry official to state governments shows specifications for the board that can be displayed at shops selling tobacco products. According to Indian law, the board cannot include any brand names. Beedis are traditional hand-rolled cigarettes.

An excerpt from a 2013 letter from a health ministry official to state governments shows specifications for the board that can be displayed at shops selling tobacco products. According to Indian law, the board cannot include any brand names. Beedis are traditional hand-rolled cigarettes.

Ahead of the World Health Organization’s global tobacco control treaty meeting in India last November, Philip Morris planned to engage Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an effort to head off new anti-tobacco measures. The slide is from a 2014 corporate affairs document. CoP7 = Conference of the Parties, the biennial treaty meeting.

Ahead of the World Health Organization’s global tobacco control treaty meeting in India last November, Philip Morris planned to engage Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an effort to head off new anti-tobacco measures. The slide is from a 2014 corporate affairs document. CoP7 = Conference of the Parties, the biennial treaty meeting.

The company planned to gain Modi’s ear through those close to him. It identified several people in this group, including Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda, and Amit Shah, president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi and the other politicians didn’t respond to requests for comment. Philip Morris International also didn’t comment on the plan.

The tobacco giant’s efforts to fend off anti-smoking steps have had limited impact so far. Last year, for instance, India ordered manufacturers to cover 85 percent of the surface of cigarette packs with health warnings, up from 20 percent. The rule, which is still being challenged in a state court by the tobacco industry, including Philip Morris’ India partner, was implemented by order of the Supreme Court.

Marlboro has just a 1.4 percent share of the almost $10 billion cigarette market in India. The industry is dominated by ITC, which has a strong grip on distributors and retailers.

One major method Philip Morris is deploying to gain ground, the marketing documents show, is the free distribution of cigarettes at bars and nightclubs – known as Legal Age Meeting Points, or LAMPs, in company jargon. The hiring of young women and men to work at these gatherings is outsourced to event management companies, according to people with knowledge of the gatherings.

Some of the recruiting takes place online. “Hey girls…We are searching A++ Hot & Gorgeous girls for the Marlboro pub activity…Pay: 2000/day…Work: Promotion in clubs in Delhi,” read one post on a Facebook public group in June last year. There was no company name attached to the ad.

At several parties attended by Reuters in Delhi and Mumbai, young women dressed in the colors of the latest Marlboro variant handed out packs of cigarettes. During one party at a nightclub in a Delhi hotel, a young woman walked around with a tablet showing an ad that highlighted Marlboro features. A television screen played a video promoting the brand: “For trendsetters, for forward thinkers, a smooth and balanced smoking experience.”

In many ways, it was right out of the Philip Morris 1990s playbook. The American Journal of Public Health study, drawing on previously secret industry documents, found that Philip Morris ran bar promotions in 1990 using racing jackets, and added “neon message boards and cocktail trays” in 1991. The study described methods for collecting names for a company database “to generate smoker profiles, direct mailing campaigns, and conduct telephone research studies after the bar events.”

At the parties in India, people who took the Marlboro packs were asked their names, ages and preferred brands. Philip Morris calls this distribution of free cigarettes “sampling,” which it says in an internal document is allowed under the law.

The company has spent millions of dollars on these activities. In 2014, for example, Philip Morris estimated it spent $1.6 million on LAMP events and sampling at kiosks in India, according to the 2015 commercial review presentation.

The company planned to use LAMPs in 2015 to generate 30,000 “trials,” or samplings of cigarettes. And it planned to generate another 500,000 trials that year through sampling at cigarette shops and kiosks, according to the 2015 strategy document.

The company instructs employees to watch their words. An undated training manual for market researchers says: “Do not say this is a ‘PROMOTION’ or ‘ADVERTISING’.”

Indian health ministry officials say that anyone who hands out free cigarettes, whatever the circumstances, is breaking the law.

The Health Ministry’s Amal Pusp says the law against distribution of free cigarettes is unambiguous. He cites Section 5 of the country’s tobacco control act, which says: “No person, shall, under a contract or otherwise promote or agree to promote the use or consumption of” cigarettes or any other tobacco product. The law carries a fine of up to 1,000 rupees (about $15) and a sentence of up to two years in prison for a first conviction.

“We believe we market our products in a responsible manner, and in compliance with Indian regulations,” Philip Morris’ Venkatesh said, without elaborating.

In October last year, the month before India was due to host delegations from around the world at the biennial FCTC tobacco control conference in Delhi, tobacco-control officer Arora said he suddenly started getting traction.

The cigarette ads vanished and Delhi was “cleaned,” he said.

That success couldn’t have come at a better time for Arora and his colleagues at the federal health ministry: They wanted to make sure foreign delegates visiting India saw the country was serious about its tobacco regulations.

Weeks after the FCTC delegates left town in November, however, kiosks in the capital were again displaying ads for Marlboro.

STOREFRONT ADS: Marlboro advertisements can be seen on this kiosk in a marketplace in New Delhi in April. Despite warnings from health officials, Philip Morris has continued to advertise its Marlboro cigarettes. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

STOREFRONT ADS: Marlboro advertisements can be seen on this kiosk in a marketplace in New Delhi in April. Despite warnings from health officials, Philip Morris has continued to advertise its Marlboro cigarettes. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Additional reporting by Aditi Shah in New Delhi, and Abhirup Roy and Swati Bhat in Mumbai.

The Philip Morris Files
By Aditya Kalra, Paritosh Bansal, Tom Lasseter and Duff Wilson
Design: Troy Dunkley
Photo Editing: Tom White and Altaf Bhat
Edited by Peter Hirschberg

Furore over tobacco harm-reduction efforts

Most countries all over the world have banned smoking in public places and the popular advice is, “smoking is dangerous to your health… smokers are liable to die young.”

https://guardian.ng/features/furore-over-tobacco-harm-reduction-efforts/

Researches indicate that most deaths due to smoking result from respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia.

In Nigeria, most cities including Lagos have outlawed smoking backed with legislation but poor enforcement has been the pitfall. People still smoke in public places in all the nook and crannies in the country exposing the non-smoker and tender ones to secondhand smoke, which has also been associated with cancer of the lung and other ill-health effects.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats, killing more than seven million people a year. There are currently one billion smokers worldwide, with nearly 80 per cent of them living in low and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness is greatest.

Indeed, several studies have shown that smoking tobacco is the most harmful way of using nicotine, with the tars and gasses in cigarette smoke being harmful to health, however, many people find it difficult to stop smoking because they find it hard to go without nicotine.

A school of thought suggests that making lower risk products available may help people switch from smoking, ultimately helping avoid the risk of smoking known as “tobacco harm reduction”.

Tobacco harm reduction is a pragmatic approach to reducing the harm of smoking related diseases. People smoke because they are addicted to nicotine and seek a “hit”, but it is the other toxins in tobacco smoke that cause most of the harm. Nicotine can be obtained from a range of products, which vary in their level of harm and addictiveness, from smoked tobacco (that is cigarettes) at the top end of the harm/addiction spectrum, to medicinal nicotine (that is nicotine replacement therapy products) at the bottom end.

A harm reduction approach to tobacco control encourages those smokers that cannot, or are unwilling to, stop smoking, to switch to using nicotine in a less harmful form, and ideally would result in them ultimately quitting nicotine use altogether.

Potential harm reduction products include: Smokeless Tobacco (Snus); E-cigarettes; and Nicotine Replacement Therapy (under construction). The use of safer nicotine products is a rapidly evolving area, with many new non-combustible products emerging. The rapid development and use of these products raises a number of challenging scientific questions about their safety, who uses them and why, and the impact on smoking. These products also raise challenges for governments who seek to understand what kind of policy and regulation is appropriate.

To address these issues, the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) 2017 was held last month in Warsaw, Poland.

Reflecting commitment to the development and promotion of evidence-based policies and interventions, the theme of this year’s meeting was “Reducing Harm, Saving Lives”, drawing attention to the potential of safer nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, oral tobaccos and “heat-not-burn” tobacco products, to reduce the global health burden of smoking.

Participants comprised of policy analysts, regulators and standards experts, academics and researchers, parliamentarians, public health professionals, consumer advocates, and makers and distributors of alternative nicotine products – all with an interest in nicotine and its uses.

This year’s programme examined the rapidly developing science in relation to nicotine use and the changing landscape, including policy responses and the influence of different stakeholders in this. The programme comprised plenary sessions, symposia, panel discussions and poster presentations – including video posters.

Several studies have shown that tobacco harm reduction has been controversial and divisive in public health, in particular where the debate has focused on a possible role for other tobacco products such as Snus, within a tobacco harm reduction strategy. One of the reasons harm reduction is a sensitive topic is that it could involve engaging with the tobacco industry, which has a history of manipulating public debate and public health policy.

Critics posit that to fully understand the harmfulness of potentially reduced risk products and their effectiveness for smoking cessation, tobacco industry investments and research into harm reduction and potentially reduced risk products should be carefully scrutinised. Who has paid for the research, which scientists, organisations and institutions are involved?

In fact, a number of scientists leading the debate on harm reduction and/or potentially reduced risk products are allegedly funded by the tobacco industry. Examples include: Jed E. Rose is director of the Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research (CNSCR) at Duke University in the United States (US), an institution with a long history of tobacco money. He is the inventor of the nicotine patch, and a nicotine aerosol technology. The Center, his research and his career are closely interlinked with the tobacco industry, more specifically Philip Morris.

The story on Duke University, US, and the Tobacco Industry shows Philip Morris actively promoting the nicotine patch as a quitting strategy, with the research funded by the company and with the endorsement of scientists involved.

A 2012 editorial in the public health journal Addiction suggested we should not be fooled by industry investments in potentially reduced risk products like snus, highlighting that Philip Morris US is currently advertising its Marlboro snus “for when you can’t smoke”, thus encouraging dual use instead of smoking cessation.

Further evidence from the US, where smokeless tobacco is freely available, confirms that smokeless tobacco is being marketed as a tobacco alternative in smoke-free environments. This would suggest that contrary to the industry’s discourse on harm reduction, and the favoured approach by public health experts advocating tobacco harm reduction, the industry appears to have little intention of promoting Snus use as a permanent switch from smoking.

However, the GFN is changing that perception. Chair of GFN, Prof. Dave Sweanor from Canada, told participants at 2017 GFN: “GFN is the only international conference to focus on the role of safer nicotine products that help people switch from smoking. Safer nicotine products include e-cigarettes, oral tobaccos such as Swedish snus, and ‘heat-not-burn’ tobacco products. This is a rapidly evolving area with many new non-combustible products emerging.

“The first conference was held in 2014 and this year we see the fourth annual renewal. All the conferences to date have been in Warsaw. The conference is funded by registration fees and does not receive any sponsorship from manufacturers, distributors or retailers of nicotine products, including pharmaceutical, electronic cigarette and tobacco companies.”

Sweanor said the programme is developed by an international programme committee and is supported by a Polish Host Committee. Knowledge-Action-Change (KAC) provides the administration for the conference. New data released at the GFN showed low risk nicotine product snus is 95 per cent safer than smoking and has the potential to stop 320,000 premature deaths across Europe each year.

The latest evidence, presented by Peter Lee, epidemiologist and medical statistician, indicates that snus is at least 95 per cent safer than smoking.

Analysis by Lars Ramström, snus researcher in Sweden, shows that if snus were made available in Europe –where it is currently banned with the exception of Sweden –and similar use levels to Sweden were adopted, up to
320,000 premature deaths could be avoided among men every year.

While 46 per cent of deaths due to smoking result from respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia, there is no evidence that using snus increases risk of these diseases. Nor does snus appear to increase the risk of other smoking related diseases including heart disease, stroke and a range of cancers.

In addition, the public health benefits of snus versus cigarettes are not only much lower, but the role of snus in both reducing initiation of smoking and increasing cessation of smoking is a key element in defeating the actual cause of tobacco-related ill-health caused by the cigarette.

Current European legislation does not allow snus to be marketed in any European country except Sweden. However, due to strong evidence behind its potentially life saving benefits, The New Nicotine Alliance (NNA), a United Kingdom (UK) consumer group supporting access to safer nicotine products, is calling for its legalization and has joined legal action case against the banning of snus, which has now been referred to the European Courts of Justice.

Gerry Stimson, Chair of the NNA stated, “Snus is a tobacco product that has consistently been proven to be less harmful to health than cigarettes. The ban on snus limits smokers choices of safer alternatives and has a significant negative impact on public health”.

Phillips Morris International (PMI) in its presentation at the Forum noted: “Harm reduction policies are based on the view acknowledged by virtually all public health organizations that tobacco use will continue well into the future. As the United Nation (UN) stated in 2004, even assuming current rates of decline in consumption, ‘the number of tobacco users would still be expected to increase to 1.46 billion by 2025.’

“The recognition that people will continue to smoke has led many public health authorities to the conclusion that developing tobacco products that have a reduced risk of causing disease is a crucial element of tobacco policy. This is contrasted with those groups who take an abstinence-based approach that focuses solely on preventing people from beginning to use tobacco products and encouraging people to quit using tobacco products.

“Following a harm reduction policy does not preclude governments from pursuing the objectives of prevention of initiation and encouraging cessation. On the contrary, most proponents of harm reduction are vigorous supporters of those important goals. As we see it, tobacco harm reduction should complement prevention and cessation efforts — not compete with them.

“Our support of harm reduction follows two paths: one is through our research and development of products with the potential to reduce the risk of tobacco related diseases. The other path is through our support of regulation based on the principle of harm reduction.”

Big tobacco’s push to legalise e-cigarettes needs to be quashed immediately

If Philip Morris truly believed it’s push to legalise e-cigarettes containing nicotine in this country had merit it would be making its case publicly and under its own name.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/ct-editorial/big-tobaccos-push-to-legalise-ecigarettes-needs-to-be-quashed-immediately-20170713-gxaow8.html

The fact the tobacco giant is using its catspaw smokers’ rights lobby group “I Deserve To Be Heard” to lend the argument the dubious legitimacy of contrived popular support is, in itself, a good reason for the Federal Government to refuse to give this matter any oxygen.

Another is that in the almost 500 years since Spanish merchants introduced tobacco to Europe from the New World big tobacco’s track record of advocating anything in the public interest has been appalling.

It’s a pretty good bet, just on the historical record, that if Philip Morris thinks it would benefit from the legalisation of e-cigarettes there’s likely some sort of downside for the broader society.

Despite the handsome revenues governments rake in from the taxes, levies and charges imposed on what is arguably the most deadly mass consumption product available for public sale, the industry, and its users, always come out ahead.

The costs to other taxpayers from picking up the burden of additional healthcare and lost productivity arising from the chronic illnesses and early deaths caused by consumption on tobacco products far outweigh the revenues that come in.

An estimated 15,000 Australians die of smoking related causes each year at a cost to the community, in terms of health expenditure and economic costs, of $31.5 billion a year. This is almost three times the roughly $12 billion spent on tobacco products in Australia in 2015.

This is not a message big tobacco is keen to spread. Instead, by enlisting proxies from the nicotine-using and “vaping” communities, it is trying to play this as a “free speech” and “freedom of choice” issue.

That is not the case. Public health was, is and must always be, the core issue in the smoking debate. Everything else, as was demonstrated by the industry’s failed bid to overturn plain packaging, is a side show.

Health concerns were behind the many initiatives, including increased prices, that have seen Australian smoking rates fall to less than 13 per cent compared to 1945 when 72 per cent of males and 26 per cent of females smoked.

Today’s battle is not so much to wean the last hard core smokers off the habit as it is to stop young people from taking it up.

This is why e-cigarettes, which could be touted as a “reduced risk” and potentially “cool” way to imbibe must stay banned.

If legalised they would simply serve as yet another gateway towards the use of the traditional product.

Big Tobacco Accused of ‘Dirty War’ Against Smoking Prevention in Africa

In the past, Big Tobacco has been accused of covering up the true extent of the health risks associated with smoking, as well as fighting government restrictions. Now, a new investigation suggests that Big Tobacco is using strong-arm tactics to resist regulations in many parts of Africa.

http://www.care2.com/causes/big-tobacco-accused-of-dirty-war-against-smoking-prevention-in-africa.html

The Guardian reports that after reviewing court documents and other materials, it has uncovered a systematic wave of bullying and intimidation by British American Tobacco. And BAT is soon to close a deal that would make it the world’s leading tobacco company.

The exposé highlights attempts made by BAT to defang, or resist outright, regulation and restriction. For example, the company used threats of economic damage to fight higher taxes on cigarettes, a plan that is standard in the U.S. and much of Europe.

The Guardian reports:

In one undisclosed court document in Kenya, seen by the Guardian, BAT’s lawyers demand the country’s high court “quash in its entirety” a package of anti-smoking regulations and rails against what it calls a “capricious” tax plan. The case is now before the supreme court after BAT Kenya lost in the high court and the appeal court. A ruling is expected as early as next month.

The Guardian has also seen letters, including three by BAT, sent to the governments of Uganda, Namibia, Togo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso revealing the intimidatory tactics that tobacco companies are using, accusing governments of breaching their own laws and international trade agreements and warning of damage to the economy.

But we have seen these tactics before.

Starting as early as the 1970s, health warnings about cigarettes began to grab national attention. At that time, tobacco companies used every advertising and legal mechanism they could to prevent further regulation and to avoid plain packaging. As a result, some 70 years after the health dangers of cigarettes came to light, we are only now restricting tobacco in a way that seems appropriate to its risks.

While tobacco companies are in retreat in the West, African, Latin American and now Asian markets have become key areas of interest. As well as exploiting labor in these regions, tobacco companies now want to ensure that their products last long after the West has rejected cigarettes.

For its part, British American Tobacco has always claimed to abide by strict codes of conduct. The company has defended its use of the courts as a means to clear up ambiguous interpretations in local regulation and to ensure international regulations are being followed where appropriate.

British American Tobacco maintains that it does not oppose regulation per se and believes that reasonable restrictions on tobacco are warranted as, tobacco is a harmful product.

However, campaigners have long said that BAT falls short of that standard. Many African nations have signed on to the World Health Organization’s treaty on tobacco control, but that status still needs to be ratified, meaning that no uniform policies exist. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular has shown its vulnerability to manipulation by outside businesses with money.

The Guardian exposé highlights this clearly in one extract regarding tobacco regulation in Kenya:

Extract – letter
“If these measures are brought into effect, the economic and social impact will be extremely negative. They could even threaten the continuation of our factory which has operated in Bobo Dioulasso for more than fifty years with more than 210 salaried employees.”

Excerpt from letter from Imperial Tobacco to the prime minister of Burkina Faso, 25 January 2016, concerning new regulations on plain cigarette packaging and large graphic health warnings.

The Sunday Times has previously reported on an investigation which found that BAT sold cheaper, highly addictive cigarettes to Africans in the 1990s. The company also allegedly marketed smoking without sufficient health warnings.

BAT may dispute such claims or suggest that these are simply past infractions. However, more recent reports claim that people affiliated with BAT have attempted to bribe African officials to advance tobacco products in sub-Saharan Africa and to avoid certain regulations.

As of 2016, these allegations — made both by former BAT employees and by outside investigators — even prompted lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to call for a full investigation to determine whether BAT breached any laws due to its involvement in Africa.

Overall, tobacco use remains low across Africa. A major “Lancet” study published in 2010 puts cigarette smokers at about 14 percent of the total population — far below that seen in the Americas. However, data suggests that the rate of smoking uptake is rising at an alarming rate — by as much as four percent per year.

Will the Guardian’s revelations prompt further action against British American Tobacco? That remains to be seen, but we must do everything we can to help African nations get the full facts on tobacco’s health impacts and resist Big Tobacco’s strong-arm tactics.

Tobacco Industry Makes Strides in Trump’s Washington

President Trump may have promised to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists in Washington, but six months into his administration it seems the swamp is winning.

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/tobacco_companies_trump_administration_20170713

A new report published in The Guardian exposes how tobacco companies are gaining significant political victories under Trump, due to lobbying efforts and the fact that tobacco business insiders have been appointed to top positions in the president’s administration. Jessica Glenza explains:

America’s largest cigarette manufacturers, Reynolds American and Altria Group, donated $1.5m to help the new president celebrate his inauguration. The donations allowed executives to dine and mingle with top administration officials and their families.

Not long after Trump promised to transfer power from Washington to the American people, a wave of spending in pursuit of influence was unleashed. In the first quarter of 2017, tobacco companies and trade associations spent $4.7m lobbying federal officials. Altria, the company behind Marlboro, hired 17 lobbying firms. Reynolds, makers of the Camel brand, hired 13, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Since then, tobacco companies have been putting points on the scoreboard. Politicians and officials with deep ties to the tobacco industry now head the US health department, the top attorney’s office and the Senate, even as tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death.

Agencies in charge of reviewing large mergers let a window slip by in which they might have requested information about a $49bn merger between Reynolds and British American Tobacco (BAT). That merger, expected to be voted through by shareholders next week, will make BAT the biggest listed tobacco company in the world, and puts proceeds from eight out of 10 cigarettes sold in the US into the pockets of two companies: Altria and BAT. …

The Food and Drug Administration has twice delayed legal briefs to defend regulations of e-cigarettes, products cigarette makers say are the future. Summer deadlines for cigar and e-cigarette makers to file applications with the FDA, which regulates the products, have all been delayed by the Trump administration.

And the high-profile attorney Noel Francisco, who once argued for Reynolds that including a quit-line phone number on cigarette packs amounted to government advocacy against smoking, has been nominated for the post of solicitor general, the government’s top attorney.

The companies now securing regulatory wins are also partly responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. “For Trump’s inaugural celebration, Reynolds American gave $1m. Altria Group gave $500,000,” Glenza reports. “The US Chamber of Commerce, which has been fiercely pro-tobacco in recent years, gave $25,000.”

Prior to becoming president, Trump profited from tobacco companies, Glenza says. His past financial disclosures “show he earned up to $2.1m from tobacco holdings in diversified portfolios,” although he has since claimed (without offering any proof) to have sold his stocks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and members of Trump’s administration including Vice President Mike Pence have deep ties to the tobacco industry. Glenza shows the links between tobacco company donations and pro-tobacco policymaking.

“Tobacco industry influence in Washington is pervasive, in many different ways,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a longtime opponent of smoking, tells The Guardian. “As in so many areas, the promise to drain the swamp has been an extraordinary hypocrisy.”

Inside Philip Morris’ campaign to subvert the global anti-smoking treaty

The world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company is deploying its vast resources against international efforts to reduce smoking. Internal documents uncovered by Reuters reveal details of the secret operation.

http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/pmi-who-fctc/

A group of cigarette company executives stood in the lobby of a drab convention center near New Delhi last November. They were waiting for credentials to enter the World Health Organization’s global tobacco treaty conference, one designed to curb smoking and combat the influence of the cigarette industry.

Treaty officials didn’t want them there. But still, among those lined up hoping to get in were executives from Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco Plc.

There was a big name missing from the group: Philip Morris International Inc. A Philip Morris representative later told Reuters its employees didn’t turn up because the company knew it wasn’t welcome.

In fact, executives from the largest publicly traded tobacco firm had flown in from around the world to New Delhi for the anti-tobacco meeting. Unknown to treaty organizers, they were staying at a hotel an hour from the convention center, working from an operations room there. Philip Morris International would soon be holding secret meetings with delegates from the government of Vietnam and other treaty members.

The object of these clandestine activities: the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC, a treaty aimed at reducing smoking globally. Reuters has found that Philip Morris International is running a secretive campaign to block or weaken treaty provisions that save millions of lives by curbing tobacco use.

In an internal document, the company says it supported the enactment of the treaty. But Philip Morris has come to view it as a “regulatory runaway train” driven by “anti-tobacco extremists” – a description contained in the document, a 2014 PowerPoint presentation.

Confidential company documents and interviews with current and former Philip Morris employees reveal an offensive that stretches from the Americas to Africa to Asia, from hardscrabble tobacco fields to the halls of political power, in what may be one of the broadest corporate lobbying efforts in existence.

Details of those plans are laid bare in a cache of Philip Morris documents reviewed by Reuters, one of the largest tobacco industry leaks ever. Reuters is publishing a selection of those papers in a searchable repository, The Philip Morris Files.

Dating from 2009 to 2016, the thousands of pages include emails between executives, PowerPoint presentations, planning papers, policy toolkits, national lobbying plans and market analyses. Taken as a whole, they present a company that has focused its vast global resources on bringing to heel the world’s tobacco control treaty.

Philip Morris works to subvert the treaty on multiple levels. It targets the FCTC conferences where delegates gather to decide on anti-smoking guidelines. It also lobbies at the country level, where the makeup of FCTC delegations is determined and treaty decisions are turned into legislation.

Excerpts from the Philip Morris Files

Reuters uncovered thousands of pages of internal Philip Morris International documents. These excerpts show the company’s tactics for combating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC, a treaty aimed at reducing smoking worldwide. (Some documents include highlighting by Reuters; some names have been redacted.)

01

A slide from a 2014 Philip Morris corporate affairs presentation about the FCTC, the global anti-smoking treaty. CoP5 and CoP6 refer to the biennial meetings of treaty nations in 2012 and 2014. “ENDS” refers to e-cigarettes.

Another slide from the 2014 PowerPoint presentation. “Paradigm shift” refers to an expected boom in what the company calls “reduced-risk products.”

Another slide from the 2014 PowerPoint presentation. “Paradigm shift” refers to an expected boom in what the company calls “reduced-risk products.”

A slide from the 2014 presentation shows Philip Morris plans for tracking anti-smoking groups, which the company calls anti-tobacco organizations, or ATOs.

A slide from the 2014 presentation shows Philip Morris plans for tracking anti-smoking groups, which the company calls anti-tobacco organizations, or ATOs.

The same 2014 document shows objectives for corporate affairs executives. “Roadblocks” refers to delays in implementing anti-smoking steps. “MoH” refers to ministries of health.

The same 2014 document shows objectives for corporate affairs executives. “Roadblocks” refers to delays in implementing anti-smoking steps. “MoH” refers to ministries of health.

Another slide from the 2014 document shows the characteristics that a Philip Morris corporate affairs (“CA”) person should possess.

Another slide from the 2014 document shows the characteristics that a Philip Morris corporate affairs (“CA”) person should possess.

A more detailed account of Philip Morris’ corporate affairs tactics from the same 2014 presentation.

A more detailed account of Philip Morris’ corporate affairs tactics from the same 2014 presentation.

A list of methods the company has devised for opposing the implementation of plain packaging, a measure advocated by the FCTC that bars the use of logos and distinctive coloring on cigarette packs.

A list of methods the company has devised for opposing the implementation of plain packaging, a measure advocated by the FCTC that bars the use of logos and distinctive coloring on cigarette packs.

This slide from the 2014 presentation shows some of the resources Philip Morris deployed at the FCTC treaty meeting in Moscow that year (CoP6), as the company looked ahead to the 2016 session in New Delhi (CoP7). ITGA = the International Tobacco Growers’ Association.

This slide from the 2014 presentation shows some of the resources Philip Morris deployed at the FCTC treaty meeting in Moscow that year (CoP6), as the company looked ahead to the 2016 session in New Delhi (CoP7). ITGA = the International Tobacco Growers’ Association.

Philip Morris pushes for more delegates to FCTC treaty meetings from government agencies that deal with economic and trade issues. This slide from the 2014 presentation shows the company’s plan to lobby for more delegates from outside of public health on India’s delegation at the treaty meeting last year.

Philip Morris pushes for more delegates to FCTC treaty meetings from government agencies that deal with economic and trade issues. This slide from the 2014 presentation shows the company’s plan to lobby for more delegates from outside of public health on India’s delegation at the treaty meeting last year.

Excerpt from an October 18, 2014, email from Chris Koddermann, who led the Philip Morris team at the treaty meeting in Moscow that year.

Excerpt from an October 18, 2014, email from Chris Koddermann, who led the Philip Morris team at the treaty meeting in Moscow that year.

An October 18, 2014, email from Nguyen Thanh Ky, a Philip Morris corporate affairs executive, about his meeting with the Vietnamese delegation to the 2014 Moscow treaty conference.

An October 18, 2014, email from Nguyen Thanh Ky, a Philip Morris corporate affairs executive, about his meeting with the Vietnamese delegation to the 2014 Moscow treaty conference.

Excerpt from an October 2014 email from Gustavo Bosio, then Philip Morris manager for international trade, a few days after the end of the Moscow meeting.

Excerpt from an October 2014 email from Gustavo Bosio, then Philip Morris manager for international trade, a few days after the end of the Moscow meeting.

Excerpt from a Philip Morris briefing paper on trade arguments, ahead of the treaty meeting in India last year. The company has long argued that the biennial Conference of the Parties (COP) should leave trade issues to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Excerpt from a Philip Morris briefing paper on trade arguments, ahead of the treaty meeting in India last year. The company has long argued that the biennial Conference of the Parties (COP) should leave trade issues to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Excerpt from a Philip Morris briefing paper on potential risks ahead of the treaty meeting last year, “COP7” in India. ENDS, or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, refers to electronic cigarettes.

Excerpt from a Philip Morris briefing paper on potential risks ahead of the treaty meeting last year, “COP7” in India. ENDS, or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, refers to electronic cigarettes.

Excerpt from a 2011 draft Philip Morris plan for responding to moves in Israel to pass new anti-smoking measures.

Excerpt from a 2011 draft Philip Morris plan for responding to moves in Israel to pass new anti-smoking measures.

 In this slide from a Japan corporate affairs presentation, some ministers in the Japanese cabinet are identified according to their positions on tobacco. The two ministers designated “Pro-tobacco” did not respond to questions from Reuters.

In this slide from a Japan corporate affairs presentation, some ministers in the Japanese cabinet are identified according to their positions on tobacco. The two ministers designated “Pro-tobacco” did not respond to questions from Reuters.

This slide, also from the Japan presentation, talks about Philip Morris Japan maintaining good relations with members of Japan’s FCTC delegation, and a Philip Morris executive meeting with members of the country’s FCTC delegation. (MOF = Ministry of Finance; MOFA = Ministry of Foreign Affairs; JT = Japan Tobacco.)

This slide, also from the Japan presentation, talks about Philip Morris Japan maintaining good relations with members of Japan’s FCTC delegation, and a Philip Morris executive meeting with members of the country’s FCTC delegation. (MOF = Ministry of Finance; MOFA = Ministry of Foreign Affairs; JT = Japan Tobacco.)

This slide, also from the Japan presentation, reveals the company’s plans for opposing moves in Australia to bar the use of logos or distinctive coloring on cigarette packs. The measure is known as plain packaging, or PP. The Tobacco Institute of Japan, or TIOJ, declined to comment.

This slide, also from the Japan presentation, reveals the company’s plans for opposing moves in Australia to bar the use of logos or distinctive coloring on cigarette packs. The measure is known as plain packaging, or PP. The Tobacco Institute of Japan, or TIOJ, declined to comment.

A slide from a Philip Morris training document.

A slide from a Philip Morris training document.

“Our everyday business”

Philip Morris International’s full response to Reuters findings:

“As a company in a highly regulated industry, speaking with governments is part of our everyday business. We publicly supported the creation of the framework convention on tobacco control, were involved in the consultation process prior to its establishment, but have not since been invited to contribute to any discussions on tobacco control measures. With our product knowledge, technical expertise and our vision to replace cigarettes with less harmful alternatives, we believe we have something to contribute and we look for a range of legitimate opportunities to express our views to decision-makers. The fact that Reuters has seen internal emails discussing our engagement with governments does not make those interactions inappropriate. We believe that the active participation of public health experts, policy-makers, scientists, and the industry is the best way to effectively address tobacco regulations in the genuine interest of today’s billion smokers. It is our hope that moving forward, all tobacco policy makers will invite open dialogue, and in the meantime we will continue to speak with governments about policies that can address the impact of smoking on health.”

– Tony Snyder, Vice President of Communications, Philip Morris International

The documents, combined with reporting in 14 countries from Brazil to Uganda to Vietnam, reveal that a goal of Philip Morris is to increase the number of delegates at the treaty conventions who are not from health ministries or involved in public health. That’s happening: A Reuters analysis of delegates to the FCTC’s biennial conference shows a rise since the first convention in 2006 in the number of officials from ministries like trade, finance and agriculture for whom tobacco revenues can be a higher priority than health concerns.

Philip Morris International says there is nothing improper about its executives engaging with government officials. “As a company in a highly regulated industry, speaking with governments is part of our everyday business,” Tony Snyder, vice president of communications, said in a statement in response to Reuters’ findings. “The fact that Reuters has seen internal emails discussing our engagement with governments does not make those interactions inappropriate.”

In a series of interviews in Europe and Asia, Philip Morris executive Andrew Cave said company employees are under strict instructions to obey both the company’s own conduct policies and local law in the countries where they operate. Cave, a director of corporate affairs, said that while Philip Morris disagrees with some aspects of the FCTC treaty and consults with delegates offsite during its conferences, ultimately the delegations “make their own decisions.”

“We’re respectful of the fact that this is their week and their event,” said Cave in an interview in New Delhi, as the parties to the treaty met last November. Asked in an earlier interview whether Philip Morris conducts a formal campaign targeting the treaty’s biennial conferences, Cave gave a flat “no.”

When the FCTC delegates gather, lives hang in the balance. Decisions taken at the conferences over the past decade, including a ban on smoking in public places, are saving millions of lives, according to researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Between 2007 and 2014, more than 53 million people in 88 countries stopped smoking because those nations imposed stringent anti-smoking measures recommended by the WHO, according to their December 2016 study. Because of the treaty, an estimated 22 million smoking-related deaths will be averted, the researchers found.

According to the WHO, though, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death – and by 2030 will be responsible for eight million deaths a year, up from six million now.

There was jubilation among anti-smoking advocates when the treaty was adopted in 2003. The treaty, which took effect in 2005, made it possible to push for measures that once seemed radical, such as smoke-free bars. About 90 percent of all nations eventually joined. A big holdout is the United States, which signed the treaty but has yet to ratify it.

Since the FCTC came into force, it has persuaded dozens of nations to boost taxes on tobacco products, pass laws banning smoking in public places and increase the size of health warnings on cigarette packs. Treaty members gather every two years to consider new provisions or strengthen old ones at a meeting called the Conference of the Parties, or COP, which first convened in 2006 in Geneva.

But an FCTC report shows that implementation of important sections of the treaty is stalling. There has been no further progress in the implementation of 7 out of 16 “substantive” treaty articles since 2014, according to a report by the FCTC Secretariat in June last year.

A key reason: “The tobacco industry continues to be the most important barrier in implementation of the Convention.”

Indeed, the tobacco industry has weathered the tighter regulation. There has been only a slight 1.9 percent decline in global cigarette sales since the treaty took effect in 2005, and more people smoked daily in 2015 than a decade earlier, studies show. The Thomson Reuters Global Tobacco Index, which tracks tobacco stocks, has risen more than 100 percent in the past decade, largely due to price increases.

“Some people think that with tobacco, you’ve won the battle,” said former Finnish Health Minister Pekka Puska, who chaired an FCTC committee last year. “No way,” he said. “The tobacco industry is more powerful than ever.”

With 600 corporate affairs executives, according to a November 2015 internal email, Philip Morris has one of the world’s biggest corporate lobbying arms. That army, and $7 billion-plus in annual net profit, gives Philip Morris the resources to overwhelm the FCTC.

The treaty is overseen by 19 staff at a Secretariat office hosted by the WHO in Geneva. The Secretariat spends on average less than $6 million a year. Even when buttressed by anti-smoking groups, the Secretariat is outgunned. Its budget for this year and last year for supporting the treaty clause on combating tobacco company influence is less than $460,000.

Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of the FCTC treaty Secretariat, is the person tasked with preventing the industry from neutering the agreement.

In two interviews at her Geneva office, da Costa e Silva, a medical doctor who holds a PhD in public health and has a dyed pink streak in her hair, explained why the FCTC banned attendance by any member of the public at the 2014 biennial conference in Moscow. The ban came in response to efforts by tobacco executives to use public badges to get inside the venue, she said, adding that industry representatives then started borrowing badges from delegates they knew to gain entry.

“It’s a real war,” said da Costa e Silva.

tobacco

“Some people think that with tobacco, you’ve won the battle. No way… The tobacco industry is more powerful than ever.”

Former Finnish Health Minister Pekka Puska, who chaired an FCTC committee last year

But she had only a partial picture of the forces ranged against her. She wasn’t aware of the fact that Philip Morris had a large team operating throughout the convention in Moscow, or the details of its activities in New Delhi last November.

“This is so disgusting. These are the forces against which we have to work,” da Costa e Silva said in May after being told about the Philip Morris documents. “I think they want to implode the treaty.”

The idea of a global tobacco treaty had been discussed among health advocates since at least 1979, when a WHO committee suggested the possibility. Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway who became director-general of the WHO in 1998, made it happen.

She was aided by outrage over documents that surfaced as part of the landmark 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, in which the four largest U.S. tobacco companies agreed to pay more than $200 billion to 46 U.S. states. The internal communications showed that tobacco executives lied for years about their knowledge of the deadly nature of cigarettes.

A 1989 document revealed one company’s plan to fight threats to the industry. “WHO’s impact and influence is indisputable,” the document said. It went on to contemplate “countermeasures designed to contain/neutralize/re-orient the WHO.”

That company was Philip Morris.

In 2008, Altria Group Inc split up its Philip Morris business. Philip Morris USA, which remains a subsidiary of Altria, sells Marlboro and other brands in the United States. Philip Morris International was spun off, and handles business abroad. Since the split, Philip Morris International shares have more than doubled and Altria’s have more than tripled.

Philip Morris International’s operational headquarters are in Lausanne, Switzerland, down the street from a patch of Gallo-Roman ruins, in a sleek building with a cafeteria, gym and a patio facing Lake Geneva. From there, the company is working to hobble the treaty.

Internal company communications reveal the scope of Philip Morris’ operation during the 2014 FCTC treaty meeting in Moscow. The company set up a “Coordinating Room” that could seat 42 people, according to the 2014 PowerPoint presentation, titled “Corporate affairs approach and issues.”

Leading the operation was executive Chris Koddermann. Formerly a lawyer and lobbyist in Canada, Koddermann joined Philip Morris in 2010. He is now a director of regulatory affairs in Lausanne. The PowerPoint describes the ideal corporate affairs executive as someone who is able to “play the political game.” Koddermann previously worked for federal and provincial cabinet ministers in Canada, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Reached on his cell phone in March, Koddermann said he wouldn’t be able to meet and that any questions should be directed to Philip Morris International.

At the end of the Moscow meeting, on Oct. 18, 2014, Koddermann sent an email congratulating a 33-person Philip Morris team on their success in diluting or blocking measures intended to strengthen tobacco controls and reduce cigarette sales. The gains he touted at the end of the week-long conference were the culmination of a two-year effort, his email said.

The documents shed light on one key objective in Philip Morris’ FCTC campaign: Keep tobacco within the ambit of international trade deals, so that the company has a way to mount legal campaigns against tobacco regulations.

In Moscow, one proposal initially called for carving out tobacco from trade pacts. International trade treaties often include provisions, such as the protection of trademarks, that Philip Morris has used to challenge anti-smoking measures. If tobacco were taken out of the treaties, as suggested by the proposal, Philip Morris could be deprived of many such legal arguments.

An early draft asked parties to support efforts to exclude tobacco from trade pacts and to prevent the industry from “abusing” trade and investment rules. In the end, the proposal was watered down. The final decision only reminded parties of “the possibility to take into account their public health objectives in their negotiation of trade and investment agreements.” There was no mention of excluding tobacco.

Koddermann, in his email to colleagues on the last day of the conference, declared victory, describing the change as “a tremendous outcome.” Overall, the company achieved its “trade related campaign objectives,” including “avoiding a declaration of health over trade” and “avoiding the recognition of the FCTC as an international standard,” he wrote.

The win was significant. A former Philip Morris employee said the company has routinely used trade treaties to challenge tobacco control laws. The aim, he said, was “to scare governments away from doing regulatory changes.” Even though the tobacco industry has lost a series of major legal battles, its suits have served to discourage the implementation of regulations that curb smoking. Those delays can yield years of unimpeded sales.

As the Philip Morris PowerPoint presentation from 2014 put it: “Roadblocks are as important as solutions.”

One roadblock was a campaign to stop the 2011 introduction of rules in Australia banning logos and distinctive coloring on cigarette packs. The company’s litigation and arbitration against the measure ultimately were dismissed – but not before five countries filed complaints against Australia on the same subject at the World Trade Organization. The global trade body has yet to announce a decision in the matter.

The attempt to undo Australia’s regulations has had a chilling effect elsewhere. It slowed the introduction of plain-packaging rules in New Zealand. Citing the risk that tobacco companies may “mount legal challenges,” the government announced in 2013 that it was postponing the move and waiting to “see what happens with Australia’s legal cases.” The legislation is now scheduled to go into effect next year.

In his Moscow conference email, Koddermann also expressed pleasure at the fate of a proposal on farmers. Initial language would have recommended that countries restrict support for tobacco growers. The proposal was “significantly watered down,” he wrote. “This is a very positive result.”

Gustavo Bosio, at the time a manager for international trade, chimed in a few days after the conference in an email: “These excellent results are a direct consequence of the remarkable efforts of all PMI regions and markets during the past two years and throughout the intense week in Moscow.”

Philip Morris isn’t alone in seeking to weaken the treaty. Ahead of the 2012 FCTC conference, in Seoul, four cigarette giants – Philip Morris, British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Brands Plc – formed an “informal industry Working Group” to oppose various proposals on tobacco taxation, according to an internal BAT document reviewed by Reuters.

The 45-page paper, whose existence hasn’t been previously reported, noted that the group would coordinate “to the extent that these issues do not raise any anti-competitive concerns.” The paper outlined a global campaign planned by BAT to counter the FCTC, which was “increasingly going beyond” its mandate. And it listed objectives, including a bid to block discussions around the introduction of a minimum 70 percent tax on tobacco.

BAT declined to answer questions about the industry working group. Both Imperial and Japan Tobacco International said they didn’t want to comment on a document from a competitor. Japan Tobacco International said its tax experts met with counterparts from other tobacco companies to discuss treaty guidelines on taxation ahead of the 2012 conference. Philip Morris did not comment on the document.

The Philip Morris emails and documents don’t explicitly detail how the company pulled off the victories in Moscow. But they provide insight into the importance it places on wooing delegates.

The FCTC traditionally makes decisions by consensus, and so influencing a single national delegation can have an outsized impact. The treaty has a key clause meant to keep the industry from unduly influencing delegations. Article 5.3, as it’s known, says nations should protect their public health policies from tobacco interests. Guidelines that accompany Article 5.3 recommend that countries interact with the industry only when “strictly necessary.”

But the article – a single sentence – contains a loophole Philip Morris has exploited. The sentence ends with the words “in accordance with national law,” opening the door to arguments by pro-tobacco forces that any lobbying that’s legal in a certain country is permissible when interacting with that country’s representatives. They also argue that a sentence in a related document, the guidelines for Article 5.3, allows for such interactions to take place as long as they are conducted transparently.

Philip Morris International: Facts & figures

• Has its roots in a small tobacconist shop in London in 1847.
• Now operates in more than 180 markets.
• Famous for its iconic Marlboro Man advertising.
• Has six of the world’s top 15 cigarette brands, including Marlboro, L&M and Chesterfield.
• Spun off from the Richmond, Va.-headquartered Altria Group in March 2008.
• Operational headquarters are in Switzerland.
• Produces over 800 billion cigarettes a year.
• Share price has more than doubled since the 2008 spin-off from Altria.

Sources: Philip Morris International website; Reuters reporting

Lobbying strategy

The Philip Morris International documents uncovered by Reuters include guidelines and country-specific lobbying plans aimed at hobbling the WHO’s global tobacco control treaty and national anti-smoking measures. Strategies include:
• Lobbying lawmakers, bureaucrats and other government officials
• Trying to move tobacco issues away from health departments
• Deploying third parties, including retail groups, to make its case and exert pressure on decision-makers
• Engaging the media on tobacco issues and generating public debate to influence decision-makers

The tabs below show the company’s strategy in action in three countries in recent years, according to internal company documents. The extent to which Philip Morris’ actions affected the outcome in each case is unclear.

In September 2011, Israel’s health ministry proposed new measures to regulate flavoring and advertising of tobacco products. In a draft company strategy document from October 2011, Philip Morris said the proposals included “a few excessive and disproportionate measures” such as restricting the use of fruit or chocolate flavorings in tobacco products, and broadly prohibiting advertising and marketing of tobacco. Elements of the campaign: 1: Leverage established relationships with different government ministries, mobilize retailers to advocate against “excessive” provisions, and lobby the health ministry. 2: Lobby the government through third parties such as an Israel-based supplier of licorice. 3: Use Philip Morris’ database of more than 60,000 adult smokers to reach consumers and create a public debate through the media “to influence MPs,” or members of parliament. OUTCOME: The bans on advertising and ingredients did not go through.

In September 2011, Israel’s health ministry proposed new measures to regulate flavoring and advertising of tobacco products. In a draft company strategy document from October 2011, Philip Morris said the proposals included “a few excessive and disproportionate measures” such as restricting the use of fruit or chocolate flavorings in tobacco products, and broadly prohibiting advertising and marketing of tobacco. Elements of the campaign:
1: Leverage established relationships with different government ministries, mobilize retailers to advocate against “excessive” provisions, and lobby the health ministry.
2: Lobby the government through third parties such as an Israel-based supplier of licorice.
3: Use Philip Morris’ database of more than 60,000 adult smokers to reach consumers and create a public debate through the media “to influence MPs,” or members of parliament.
OUTCOME: The bans on advertising and ingredients did not go through.

A 2010 Philip Morris document shows the company drawing up plans to lobby Sweden in an effort to influence the European Commission’s new tobacco regulations for member states, known as the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Elements of the campaign: 1: Engage the justice ministry to “put pressure” on the health ministry so that the Swedish representative on the European Commission committee opposes plain packaging and “excessive” health warning labels, and supports lifting the ban on snus, a smokeless tobacco product. 2: Build a “broad coalition” of “third-party stakeholders,” such as the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, and get them to pressure the government. (The chamber told Reuters that it does not lobby on behalf of individual companies.) 3: Establish a retailer network and contact bloggers and journalists to voice concerns about issues, including plain packaging and point-of-sale display bans. OUTCOME: Plain packaging and point-of-sale display ban were not included in the directive, which came into force in May 2014.

A 2010 Philip Morris document shows the company drawing up plans to lobby Sweden in an effort to influence the European Commission’s new tobacco regulations for member states, known as the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Elements of the campaign:
1: Engage the justice ministry to “put pressure” on the health ministry so that the Swedish representative on the European Commission committee opposes plain packaging and “excessive” health warning labels, and supports lifting the ban on snus, a smokeless tobacco product.
2: Build a “broad coalition” of “third-party stakeholders,” such as the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, and get them to pressure the government. (The chamber told Reuters that it does not lobby on behalf of individual companies.)
3: Establish a retailer network and contact bloggers and journalists to voice concerns about issues, including plain packaging and point-of-sale display bans.
OUTCOME: Plain packaging and point-of-sale display ban were not included in the directive, which came into force in May 2014.

In January 2013, Osaka Prefecture in Japan held a public consultation on a proposal to abolish existing smoking rooms, with a “roadmap towards total smoking prohibition in all public places,” according to a February 2014 Japan corporate affairs presentation. The Philip Morris document describes it as an “extreme proposal.” Elements of the campaign: 1: Ensure that “relevant stakeholders” oppose the move. Philip Morris field sales staff engaged retailers and others. 2: Engage local politicians and work with the industry in pushing back against the proposal. OUTCOME: The proposal was withdrawn.

In January 2013, Osaka Prefecture in Japan held a public consultation on a proposal to abolish existing smoking rooms, with a “roadmap towards total smoking prohibition in all public places,” according to a February 2014 Japan corporate affairs presentation. The Philip Morris document describes it as an “extreme proposal.” Elements of the campaign:
1: Ensure that “relevant stakeholders” oppose the move. Philip Morris field sales staff engaged retailers and others.
2: Engage local politicians and work with the industry in pushing back against the proposal.
OUTCOME: The proposal was withdrawn.

One of the company’s targets has been Vietnam.

The day the Moscow meeting ended, Koddermann received an email from his colleague Nguyen Thanh Ky, a leading corporate affairs executive for Vietnam. Ky said he had a “debrief lunch” with the Vietnamese delegation and had a good outcome to report: The delegation was in favor of “moderate and reasonable measures” to be implemented over a “practical timeline,” he wrote. He did not specify which measures they discussed.

The Vietnamese delegation spoke up often during the Moscow meeting. A review of notes compiled by tobacco-control groups accredited as observers showed Vietnam’s interjections frequently mirrored Philip Morris’ positions on tobacco-control regulations. Just like the tobacco giant, the Vietnamese said a higher tax on cigarettes would lead to more illicit sales. Like Philip Morris, they said the FCTC should stay out of trade disputes. And like Philip Morris, they opposed proposals to set uniform parameters for the legal liability of tobacco companies.

The FCTC guidelines on taxation did ultimately include a WHO recommendation for a minimum tax of 70 percent – something Philip Morris opposed. But the proposal to give the treaty more sway over trade disputes was weakened, and measures to strengthen the legal liability of cigarette companies were delayed.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry did not respond to questions from Reuters.

As soon as the conference ended, the documents show, Philip Morris turned to the next one: the 2016 meeting in India.

The 2014 PowerPoint presentation outlined the need to identify ways to gather intelligence during the Delhi conference. In a separate 2015 planning document, the company talks about the arrangement of farmer protests in the run-up to the meeting. Such protests did take place – including one in front of WHO offices in New Delhi. Reuters couldn’t determine whether Philip Morris was behind those demonstrations.

While other major tobacco companies also sent people to Delhi in November, Philip Morris was distinguished by its stealth. Executives from the company did not sign in with their tobacco industry colleagues at the FCTC convention center and stayed at a hotel about an hour’s drive away.

The anonymity and distance helped Philip Morris approach delegates covertly. On the second day of the conference, a white Toyota van pulled away from the front of the Hyatt Regency hotel – where Philip Morris had its operations room – and headed for the FCTC treaty venue. The van was carrying Ky, its corporate affairs executive from Vietnam.

OFFSITE MEETING: During the treaty conference on the outskirts of New Delhi last year, a Philip Morris representative met privately with a member of the Vietnamese delegation, Nguyen Vinh Quoc. In the first picture (left to right), Quoc can be seen emerging from a session at the treaty conference on Nov. 8. In the second picture, a van that left a Delhi hotel carrying a Philip Morris representative heads for the convention center. In the third picture, Quoc can be seen exiting the convention center moments before climbing into the van. REUTERS/Duff Wilson; Tom Lasseter

OFFSITE MEETING: During the treaty conference on the outskirts of New Delhi last year, a Philip Morris representative met privately with a member of the Vietnamese delegation, Nguyen Vinh Quoc. In the first picture (left to right), Quoc can be seen emerging from a session at the treaty conference on Nov. 8. In the second picture, a van that left a Delhi hotel carrying a Philip Morris representative heads for the convention center. In the third picture, Quoc can be seen exiting the convention center moments before climbing into the van. REUTERS/Duff Wilson; Tom Lasseter

Ky’s driver talked his way past police at the barricade outside the conference center, where FCTC-issued credentials were checked, explaining that he was driving “VIPs,” the driver later told Reuters.

A few minutes later, a man in a dark suit walked out of the conference center, passed the van and stopped at a street corner. The van did a U-turn, and a Reuters reporter saw the man in the suit quickly climb in. He was a senior member of Vietnam’s delegation to the FCTC conference: Nguyen Vinh Quoc, a Vietnamese government official.

The driver, Kishore Kumar, said in an interview that he dropped the two men off at a local hotel. Kumar said that on several other occasions that week, he took Ky to pick up people from the Hotel Formule1, a budget lodging where Vietnam’s delegation was staying during the conference.

Ky and Quoc did not respond to requests for comment.

Asked by Reuters about the interaction between Ky and the Vietnam representatives, Philip Morris executive Andrew Cave thumped on the table in a bar at the hotel where company representatives were staying. Reuters should focus, he said, on efforts by the industry to develop so-called reduced-risk products – those that deliver nicotine without the burning of tobacco and which the company says reduce harm.

When pressed about the meetings with Vietnam, Cave thumped the table again: “I’m angry that you’re focusing on that, rather than the real issues that matter to real people.”

In a subsequent email, Cave said: “Representatives from Philip Morris International met with delegates from Vietnam” during the Delhi conference “to discuss policy issues and this complied fully with PMI’s internal procedures and the laws and regulations of Vietnam.”

Delegates, Cave said in separate interviews, are reluctant to meet openly with Philip Morris because they are afraid of being “named and shamed” by anti-smoking groups.

Some delegates questioned the extent to which Philip Morris shaped the decisions made at the Moscow conference, saying attendees genuinely disagreed on certain issues. Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, a Thai delegate, oversaw many discussions as the chair of an FCTC committee at the Moscow conference. She said delegates differed over the regulation of e-cigarettes, for instance, and any lobbying the company carried out would not have determined the outcome.

The Philip Morris documents leave questions unanswered. In some cases, the documents show the company hatching plans to change an anti-smoking regulation or to monitor activists, but don’t always make clear to what extent or how the plans were executed, if at all. The 2014 PowerPoint presentation called for “achieving scrutiny” of tobacco control advocates and said a “global project team” had been established for this purpose. It did not list what means would be used.

In some instances, Philip Morris’ lobbying plainly failed. In July 2015, the Ugandan parliament passed sweeping new anti-tobacco laws inspired by the treaty. All that was needed was President Yoweri Museveni’s signature, and the small African nation would become a leader on the continent in implementing a strict interpretation of the FCTC.

Philip Morris sent an executive, a younger white man, to tell the septuagenarian president, who long ago had helped topple dictator Idi Amin, why the tobacco act was a bad idea. Sheila Ndyanabangi, Uganda’s lead health official for tobacco issues who was present at the meeting, described the executive’s approach as lecturing the statesman.

“He said, ‘Ugandan tobacco will be too expensive’ and ‘it will not be competitive,’” Ndyanabangi said. Her account was confirmed by a senior Ugandan government official who was also present.

Museveni stared for a moment at the Philip Morris executive and a representative from a major tobacco buyer who’d come with him. The president then declared: “Slavery ended a long time ago.” There was a long silence in the room, recalled Ndyanabangi. Museveni said Uganda didn’t need tobacco, and the meeting was over. The president signed the bill that September.

Museveni’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Over time, however, the industry’s lobbying has slowed the treaty’s progress. At the biennial conferences, the discussions have changed. In Moscow, for instance, there was a strong focus on trade and taxes. “You could see from the floor that interventions were very, very, very much focusing on the trade aspects, many times even putting trade over health,” the FCTC’s da Costa e Silva said in an interview last year.

The composition of FCTC delegations sent by governments has changed to include more members who aren’t involved in health policy. That’s in line with what Philip Morris and other tobacco companies want: Philip Morris, as well as British American Tobacco, has sought to move the balance of the membership away from public health officials and toward ministries like finance and trade. Such agencies, said the former Philip Morris executive, benefit from tobacco tax revenues and attach less weight to health concerns.

“The health department would just want tobacco to be banned, while for the finance ministry it’s more like how can we leverage or get as much money as we can,” he said.

The object of Philip Morris’ efforts, according to the 2014 PowerPoint on corporate affairs, is to “move tobacco issues away” from health ministries and demonstrate there are broader public interests at play – that “it’s not about tobacco.”

Cave, the Philip Morris corporate affairs executive, confirmed the company tries to persuade governments to change the composition of delegations. Health officials, he said, aren’t equipped to handle the intricacies of issues such as taxation.

“You’re looking at illicit trade, you’re looking at tax regimes, you’re looking at international law,” he said. “Now each of these areas, it’s logical, if you want to really tackle the trade and tobacco smuggling, illicit trade, who would you go to? You wouldn’t go to the health ministry.”

TOBACCO FARMERS: A worker tends to a tobacco crop in the farming community of Beatrice, Zimbabwe. At the treaty meeting in Moscow in 2014, a proposal calling for countries to limit support for tobacco growers was weakened. “This is a very positive result,” wrote Chris Koddermann, a Philip Morris executive, in an email. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

TOBACCO FARMERS: A worker tends to a tobacco crop in the farming community of Beatrice, Zimbabwe. At the treaty meeting in Moscow in 2014, a proposal calling for countries to limit support for tobacco growers was weakened. “This is a very positive result,” wrote Chris Koddermann, a Philip Morris executive, in an email. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

“I’m angry that you’re focusing on that, rather than the real issues that matter to real people.”

Philip Morris executive Andrew Cave, when asked about the company’s interaction with FCTC delegates

Reuters analyzed the rosters of the almost 3,500 accredited delegation members who have attended the seven FCTC conferences since 2006. The analysis found that there were more than six health delegates for every finance-related delegate in 2006. In Delhi last year, that ratio had fallen to just over three health delegates for every finance delegate. The number of delegates from finance, agriculture and trade fields has risen from a few dozen in 2006 to more than 100 in recent years.

Vietnam’s delegation, for example, has changed markedly. At the first FCTC conference in 2006, none of its four delegates were from finance or trade ministries. By 2014, in Moscow, there were 13 delegates, with at least four from finance-related ministries, including the chief delegate. Vietnam’s foreign ministry did not respond to questions about the delegation.

Da Costa e Silva isn’t opposed to having delegates from trade ministries, but she says their primary focus needs to be on health. And she was concerned by the makeup of the Vietnamese delegation. In a letter to the Vietnamese prime minister in late 2015, she asked that tobacco industry employees be excluded from the delegation. If they weren’t, she wrote, Vietnam might be “unable to play a full part in discussions.”

In 2016, Vietnam brought 11 delegates to the conference, of whom six were from health agencies, including the chief representative.

Some tobacco-control activists who attended the Delhi meeting in November say it was the worst so far in terms of passing new anti-smoking provisions.

Matthew Myers, who heads the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said multiple countries came prepared to consciously block action. He said he heard delegates making arguments “I haven’t heard in 25 years.”

A Nigerian delegate, for instance, asked to remove a reference to “the tobacco epidemic” from a draft proposal on liability for tobacco-related harm, according to notes taken by anti-smoking groups.

Asked for comment, Christiana Ukoli, head of the delegation in Delhi, said the “Nigerian delegation strongly dissociates itself from [that] statement.”

The Delhi conference ended as it began, with treaty Secretariat officials not knowing where Philip Morris had been or what it had done. The company had flown in a team of executives, used a squad of identical vans to ferry officials in New Delhi, and then left town without a trace.

Watering down

Just days after the FCTC conference in Moscow ended in October 2014, Philip Morris executive Gustavo Bosio sent an email to colleagues highlighting what he said was the company’s success in pushing back on three treaty proposals related to trade issues. “These excellent results are a direct consequence of the remarkable efforts of all PMI regions and markets during the past two years and throughout the intense week in Moscow,” wrote Bosio, then manager for international trade. The first two columns in each tab below show the initial proposal and the final outcome, and are from an analysis Bosio attached to his email. The third column contains extracts from his email explaining what happened in each case.

fctc1

fctc2

fctc3

 

Source: Internal Philip Morris documents; emphasis added by Philip Morris. Note: “AMRO” refers to the Americas regional office of the World Health Organization.

Additional reporting by Joe Brock in Johannesburg, Ami Miyazaki in Tokyo, Mai Nguyen, My Pham and Minh B. Ho in Hanoi, Elias Biryabarema in Kampala, Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila, Stephen Eisenhammer and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia, Alexis Akwagyiram and Ulf Laessing in Lagos, and Patturaja Murugaboopathy in Bengaluru.

The Philip Morris Files
By Aditya Kalra, Paritosh Bansal, Duff Wilson and Tom Lasseter
Graphics: Jin Wu
Design: Troy Dunkley
Photo editing: Tom White and Altaf Bhat
Edited by Peter Hirschberg

Nations that cannot fight tobacco industry should raise taxes, says WHO

World Health Organization says many governments have neither funds nor expertise to take on big tobacco companies

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/12/nations-that-cannot-fight-tobacco-industry-should-raise-taxes-says-who

African nations whose attempts to regulate cigarettes are increasingly bogged down in the courts by wealthy tobacco companies should impose high taxes to deter people from developing a smoking habit, the World Health Organization says.

Vinayak Prasad of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative said many African governments were at a disadvantage in the fight against the industry over regulatory controls, like graphic health warnings on packs, which are the norm in the west. They have neither the funds nor enough expertise to deal with the big tobacco companies’ threats, intimidatory letters and law suits.

His comments follow the exposure by the Guardian of the attempts by multinational tobacco companies to delay and dilute regulatory controls in Africa through litigation and threats. At least eight African governments have been pressured by the industry.

“Just focus on getting the tax raised,” urged Prasad. WHO, the World Bank and others were trying to encourage and assist countries in changing their tobacco taxation, which countries from the Philippines to India had demonstrated could raise millions of dollars for healthcare or other essential government spending.

Developing nations do not have enough money or staff devoted to public health, he said. Often those in government who lead on tobacco control are also the key players for other areas, such as mental health.

“The tobacco epidemic has already reached the African continent. Countries have started to prioritise it but inherently the systems are weak. They need to build human resource capacity and technical capacity to respond to industry threats,” he told the Guardian. “We are working extremely hard [to help them] but we need to do more.”

Reacting to the Guardian’s reports, former public health minister Caroline Flint said: “It is sad to see firms like BAT fighting African governments for years over health warnings on cigarette packages and modest taxes. In any western nation they would have conceded these issues years ago. It speaks volumes about their approach to Africa that the tobacco giants appear willing to fight on all fronts to protect their sales.”

Lord Rennard, the vice chair of the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, said a tax on the profits of firms “could provide funds for legal support to governments in poorer countries seeking to resist tobacco damaging the health of their local populations”.

The tobacco industry also vigorously opposes hikes in the taxation of cigarettes, which is proven to reduce the numbers who smoke. The companies and tax advisers who intervene on their behalf with governments claim that tax hikes lead to smuggling from countries where the prices are lower. Prasad says that is not so if taxation is simplified, so that the same sum is levied on every carton regardless of brand.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of campaigning group Ash, said the revelations showed that the industry had not turned over a new leaf, focusing on vaping and aiming for a smoke-free future, as it claims. “The Guardian has thrown a spotlight on the dirty truth, the leopard hasn’t changed its spots, it’s still promoting the same old lethal products the same way it always did, in countries where it can get away with it,” she said.

“Last century 100 million people died from smoking; if Big Tobacco isn’t stopped then this century a billion will be killed by their lethal products and most of them will be from low and middle income countries. The tactics being used in Africa of denial, deception and delay were used very successfully in the UK in the last century, but they’re no longer being allowed to get away with it here and smoking rates have plummeted as a result. Africa needs to learn from our experience, if you regulate the industry strictly the smoking epidemic can be halted and reversed.”

Dr Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, said in a tweet that the revelations showed the “outrageous and shameful activities of tobacco industry in Africa”. US senator Richard Blumenthal, who spent his career promoting anti-smoking legislation, and was one of 46 state attorneys general to secure hundreds of billions of dollars in damages from tobacco companies in a 1990s settlement, said that in developing markets “tobacco companies have actively resisted” health regulation. “They have actively intervened with governments, and particularly so in Africa.”

José Luis Castro, president and chief executive officer of Vital Strategies, an organisation that promotes public health in developing countries, said: “The danger of tobacco is not an old story; it is the present. The industry is using every tool at its disposal to hook new smokers, especially kids, in Africa and other parts of the world.” There is a huge gap between what the industry says and what it does, he said. “It’s time this sham was called out in every country and in every public forum. When the tobacco industry gets near government, it poisons efforts to protect health.”

The multinational companies say they do not oppose tobacco regulation that is sound and evidence-based. “However, where there are different interpretations of whether regulations comply with the law, we think it is entirely reasonable to ask the courts to assist in resolving it,” British American Tobacco told the Guardian.

Imperial Tobacco also said it supported regulation, but it would “continue to make our views known on excessive, unnecessary and often counter-productive regulatory proposals”.

Philip Morris International said it has contact with public authorities on a range of issues, “such as taxation, international trade, and tobacco control policies. Participating in discussions and sharing points of view is a basic principle of public policy making and does not stop governments from taking decisions and enacting the laws they deem best”.

This content is funded, in part, by Vital Strategies.

Exposed: big tobacco’s behind-the-scenes ‘astroturf’ campaign to change vaping laws

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is running an under-the-radar campaign to convince federal politicians to legalise e-cigarettes containing nicotine, with anti-smoking campaigners accusing the company of using the same “astroturf” tactics it used in its fight against plain packaging.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/exposed-big-tobaccos-behindthescenes-astroturf-campaign-to-change-vaping-laws-20170712-gx9lsl.html

The multinational has been using its offshoot smokers’ rights lobby group – dubbed “I Deserve To Be Heard” – to contact Australian smokers and vapers and urge them to make submissions to a parliamentary probe into the use and marketing of e-cigarettes.

The company’s campaign – along with a coordinated push from Australia’s online vaping community – has seen the inquiry inundated with submissions from people who say vaping has helped them quit smoking and dramatically improved their health.

While health groups in Australia and across the globe continue to warn about the potential risks of nicotine vaping, 107 of the 108 submissions so far loaded on the inquiry’s website are strongly pro-vaping – and the vast majority follow a similar “personal story” template.

World renowned tobacco control expert Simon Chapman, an emeritus professor at the University of Sydney, said Philip Morris and other interest groups were “astroturfing” – trying to create the illusion of a big grass-roots pro-vaping movement that does not really exist.

“They’ve been actively recruiting people to put in submissions,” Professor Chapmen told Fairfax Media. “These are exactly the same tactics they used for plain packaging. They have dusted off the same software, the same template and just changed the content.”

E-cigarettes are a multi-billion-dollar business overseas but the sale and personal possession of nicotine e-cigarettes is illegal in Australia. Health groups fear that if the government relaxes the rules it could lead to a wave of seductive advertising that would lure young people into taking up the habit – and possibly serve as a gateway drug to other forms of smoking.

Philip Morris’s new campaign comes after it was ordered to pay the Australian government millions in legal costs over its failed bid to kill off world-first plain packaging laws.

The company used I Deserve To Be Heard in its plain packaging efforts but it has been largely sitting dormant in recent years. It fired back into life late last month with an email blast to members calling on them to “make their voices heard”, as the company intensifies its push into the increasingly lucrative international e-cigarette market.

“Australia’s laws on vaping are ridiculous. While the UK, USA, EU, Canada and New Zealand have all legalised or are legalising e-cigarettes, Australia completely lags behind. There’s no reason why e-cigarettes with nicotine shouldn’t be legal in Australia,” it said.

Company spokesman Patrick Muttart told Fairfax Media that Philip Morris was committed “to converting the world’s one billion plus smokers to smoke-free alternatives”. I Deserve to be Heard members had demonstrated a strong interest in the legalisation of smoke-free products, he said: “As such we wrote once to our membership, informed them of the inquiry and encouraged those interested to consider submitting.”

The submissions are also being coordinated by senior members of Vaper Cafe Australia, an online forum.

On June 7, a senior member of the forum identified as a 52-year-old man from Western Sydney urged users to “inundate” the inquiry with submissions. He offered a step-by-step guide on writing a submission.

Many of the 108 published submissions closely follow the template, in which people are urged to include “your age and gender, when you started smoking, how long you smoked for, how much you smoked and if you suffered any side effects from smoking”.

Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon said the tobacco industry was aggressively pursuing the potential of e-cigarettes because it had given them the opportunity to “rebrand” themselves as part of the effort to reduce smoking – even there is no evidence e-cigarettes work as a deterrent.

“We must not allow e-cigarettes to become a socially acceptable alternative to smoking,” he said. “E-cigarettes essentially mimic or normalise the act of smoking. They can result in some smokers delaying their decision to quit, and they can send signals to children and young people that it is okay to smoke.”

But Dr Colin Mendelsohn, a tobacco treatment specialist in Sydney who advocates for e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to smokes, said the AMA’s submission was “disgraceful” and accused it of using misleading data and ignoring international evidence that could save lives.

He defended the submissions despite the coordination: “These are still genuine stories, many of whom have had their lives saved by vaping.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council says ‘there is currently insufficient evidence to support claims that e-cigarettes are safe”.

How big tobacco has survived death and taxes

The world’s five major tobacco companies are thriving, profitable and increasing sales, despite many predictions of the industry’s decline

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/11/how-big-tobacco-has-survived-death-and-taxes

A casual observer could be forgiven for believing that the tobacco industry – for so long a fixture as permanent as its two main by-products, death and taxes – is itself on its last legs.

In the US, health officials have predicted that smoking rates in America could drop to as low as 5% by 2050, well within the lifetime of someone born today.

Last year, shareholders of UK-based Imperial Tobacco approved a decision to change the company’s century-old name to Imperial Brands, hinting at a move away from traditional cigarettes.

Even globe-straddling colossus Philip Morris International (PMI), owner of brands including Marlboro, has set its stall out for a “smoke-free” future, where nicotine addicts get their fix from vaping and other non-tobacco products.

Yet, for all of these predictions, one thing has remained unchanged: Big Tobacco is thriving, profitable and increasing its sales.

Excluding China, where the market is monopolised by the state, five major companies dominate the global tobacco trade – Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, Imperial Brands and Altria (the former US assets of PMI).

Between them in 2016, they shipped 2.27tn cigarettes, more than 300 for every man, woman and child on the planet, racking up combined sales of $150bn (£115bn). Their combined profits reached $35bn (£27bn), allowing investors in those companies to receive dividends of $19bn (£14.5bn).

Of these giants, one of the most powerful is British American Tobacco (BAT), the London-based firm that can trace its history back to 1902.

Run from Globe House, its headquarters next to the Thames river, BAT sells its brands in 200 countries and is market leader in 55 of them.

Far from looking to a future beyond tobacco, BAT is doing perfectly well as it stands.

At its annual meeting in March, chairman Richard Burrows toasted a “vintage year”, as profits rose to £5.2bn ($6.7bn) allowing the company’s shareholders to take a dividend worth an additional 10%.

The rewards were so great because BAT’s sales show no signs of the industry’s much-vaunted decline. The company sold 665bn cigarettes in 2016, nearly 100 for every human on earth and 2bn more than it sold the year before.

Cigarette sales among its so-called Global Drive Brands – Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall and Rothmans – jumped 7% to 346bn.

In the section of its accounts that details non-cigarette sales, which the company terms “next generation products”, there is nothing to see.

The numbers are so small that they are considered immaterial to its financial results and do not need to be disclosed under stock market rules.

Yet the company’s traditional business continues to generate big headlines and bigger numbers. By the end of the year, BAT is likely to have completed a landmark $49bn deal to buy the 57.8% of US tobacco giant Reynolds American that it does not already own. A simultaneous shareholder vote next Wednesday by both firms is expected to agree the deal at Reynolds HQ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and BAT in London.

If US tobacco sales really are set to fall off a cliff, that would be a monumental strategic misstep.

But while the percentage of Americans who smoke is on the wane, the US remains a market with huge potential.

That’s because the population is rising, meaning that even as smoking rates decline in percentage terms, the actual number of smokers is relatively static at about 45 million people.

US cigarettes are also relatively cheap compared with prices in the UK, leaving some scope for the company to raise prices without losing customers.

Reynolds and BAT will also look to the future by pooling research on smokeless products, hoping to capture that growing market, though that won’t be the big money-spinner any time soon.

And then there is the developing world, where the rate at which governments and public opinion are turning against tobacco differ dramatically from wealthier economies.

tob-increases

A ‘defensive’ stock

BAT increased its revenues in every region bar Asia-Pacific last year, with the developing world doing more than its share of the heavy lifting.

Among the “key markets” listed in its annual report are Indonesia and Egypt – and for good reason.

The World Health Organisation projects smoking rates in Indonesia to increase by 2025, with the number of smokers growing from 73m to 97m based on current trends.

Egypt is another key market where smoking rates are projected to grow, with up to 21m Egyptians forecast to be smokers by 2025, compared to 14m in 2015.

One only has to look at BAT’s roster of investors for evidence of the confidence that well-informed institutions with deep pockets have in the future of cigarettes, even if that future is less bright in the West.

tob-deaths

It’s a list that features nearly every major investment company in the world, testament to the safe bet that tobacco giants such as BAT offer to investors.

Top of the share register is BlackRock, the all-powerful asset manager that has a stake in nearly every major listed company in the world, managing investors’ funds of approximately $5.4tn, more than the economy of Japan.

Some way further down the list is Woodford Investment Management, run by Neil Woodford, a figure held in awe in London for his uncanny ability to make money.

He famously invests a huge chunk of his portfolio in tobacco, explaining that he is not paid to make moral judgments but to make money for clients.

Tobacco is attractive to investors – including councils in the UK – because it is seen as a “defensive” stock, in other words a good place to invest money that you are not prepared to lose.

The shares rarely decline in value even when times are tough and also deliver a steady income from annual dividends.

The huge rewards on offer for investors mean that those who manage the great behemoths of tobacco are also handsomely rewarded.

BAT chief executive Nicandro Durante is no exception. He was handed a package of cash and shares worth $10m (£7.6m) last year, taking his earnings over six years to a cool $44m (£34m).

When fellow directors are included, the 14-strong BAT boardroom enjoyed a combined $18m (£14m) payday in 2016.

There are other perks. Durante gets free tax advice from the company, a personal driver and security for his homes, in London and Brazil.

Both executives and non-executives also have access to a walk-in GP clinic near BAT’s headquarters at Globe House in London, enjoying the benefits of a National Health Service that has been estimated to spend up to $6.5bn (£5bn) a year on smoking-related illnesses.

BAT’s board earn their corn as much for their network of connections as they do for their hard work.

Burrows is a former governor of Bank of Ireland, while senior independent director Kieran Poynter is a managing partner of Big Four accountancy PricewaterhouseCoopers and previously advised the UK’s Treasury.

Its non-executive directors boast a string of similar appointments at multinational companies. Savio Kwan, for instance, was chief operating officer of China’s largest internet business, Alibaba.

tob-deaths-tot

Ann Godbehere ran the finances of Northern Rock after its bailout and also serves on the boards of mining giant Rio Tinto, Swiss bank UBS and insurer Prudential.

Nor does the company’s network of influence end there.

While it does not donate money directly to British political parties, it does funnel cash to influential right-leaning thinktank the Institute of Economic Affairs.

BAT gives the IEA around $52,000 (£40,000) a year, a sum equivalent to about 5% what the organisation pays its staff, some of whom appear frequently in the media to criticise tobacco control legislation such as plain packaging.

Chief among those staff is director-general Mark Littlewood, a former press spokesman for the Liberal Democrats and one-time adviser to David Cameron.

Littlewood has been a vocal critic of tobacco control legislation such as the ban on smoking in pubs, as well as plain packaging.

The IEA has also received funding from Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International.

The BAT bosses

Nicandro Durante – chief executive

Nicandro Durante joined Brazilian subsidiary Souza Cruz in 1981, and rose through the ranks over three decades until he was appointed chief executive in 2011.

He had impressed the company’s senior management during a two-year stint as regional director for Africa and the Middle East, key areas of future growth for tobacco companies facing up to declining smoking rates in more developed economies.

Born to Italian parents in 1956 in Sao Paulo, he played football for the city’s Corinthians team in his teens before going into business.

Married with two children, Durante stopped smoking cigarettes in favour of cigars, but has no qualms about tobacco, which he described as a “very ethical” industry in a 2012 interview with the Financial Times.

In 2015, he fielded allegations from a former employee in Kenya that BAT bribed officials for various purposes, including the undermining of tobacco control laws.

BAT denies any wrongdoing. A spokesperson said: “We will not tolerate improper conduct in our business anywhere in the world and take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously. We are investigating, through external legal advisors, allegations of misconduct and are liaising with the Serious Fraud Office and other relevant authorities.”

In 2016, Durante was handed a package of cash and shares worth $10m (£7.6m), taking his earnings over the past six years to a cool ($44m) £34m.

Richard Burrows – chairman

Addressing BAT’s shareholders earlier in 2017, Burrows toasted a “vintage year”, in which the company shrugged off bribery allegations in late 2015 to record rising profits.

Some investors were less keen on Burrows when he was named chairman in 2009.

Burrows had resigned as governor of Bank of Ireland, leaving the lender in dire straits, with big losses and mounting debt threatening its very survival.

Tens of thousands of the bank’s mortgage customers were plunged into negative equity and the lender eventually needed a state bailout that enraged many Irish people.

As the bosses of rival lenders faced public opprobrium for their stewardship of the country’s banking sector, Burrows got out just in time, landing the chairmanship of BAT in 2010.

But BAT wasn’t concerned by his record in banking, looking instead to his 22 years with Irish Distillers, during which time he was credited with turning Jameson whiskey into an internationally-recognised brand.

The Dubliner, 71, is a non-smoker who is married with four children and enjoys sailing and rugby.

He is also chairman of investment company Craven House Capital, whose assets includes beachfront land in Brazil. He is a non-executive director of Rentokil and Carlsberg.

Kieran Poynter – senior independent director

After a near 40-year career with global accounting giant PwC, which put him among the ranks of the UK’s best-paid accountants, Kieran Poynter joined BAT’s board as senior independent director.

He brought with him valuable connections, having served as an adviser to former UK chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling.

Poynter, a Chelsea FC season ticket holder, is a former director of the salubrious Royal Automobile Club, the gentleman’s club on London’s Pall Mall.

He also sits on the board of F&C Asset Management and IAG, the parent company of British Airways.

Ben Stevens – finance director

Ben Stevens looks after BAT’s money, and has spoken about how the company is growing market share and looking for acquisitions in Asia and North Africa.

Part of his role is trying to convince governments not to raise excise duty on cigarettes too quickly, according to an interview he gave with financialdirector.co.uk.

In the same interview, he referred to the need to have a “thick skin” because of the number of people “bashing tobacco companies”.

Stevens gave up smoking nearly 30 years ago, two years before joining the company. But said in 2013 that profits would come from “combustible tobacco” for the near future.

Tobacco: a deadly business – about this series

This series is focused on the damage caused by the tobacco industry, which continues to endanger the lives of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/11/tobacco-a-deadly-business-about-this-series

This content is funded by support provided, in part, by Vital Strategies with funding by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Content is editorially independent and its purpose is to shine a light on both the tobacco industry and the world’s most vulnerable populations, who disproportionately bear the brunt of the global health crisis resulting from tobacco consumption.

Although tobacco consumption remains one of the world’s greatest health threats, media coverage has decreased as the sense of urgency to address the issue has waned. This investigative reporting series seeks to renew the focus on tobacco consumption and deaths worldwide, contextualised through the duel lenses of global inequality and health.

All our journalism follows GNM’s published editorial code. The Guardian is committed to open journalism, recognising that the best understanding of the world is achieved when we collaborate, share knowledge, encourage debate, welcome challenge and harness the expertise of specialists and their communities.

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