WHO Slams PMI’s Bid to Rebrand World No Tobacco Day

Philip Morris International wants to rename World No Tobacco Day as World No Smoking Day.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — The World Health Organization (WHO) has criticised Philip Morris International’s (PMI) attempt to rename World No Tobacco Day as World No Smoking Day with its own smoke-free tobacco campaign.

AFP reported that the world’s biggest tobacco company, which makes Marlboro cigarettes, has been promoting its new vaping and heated tobacco products as less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes, claiming that the former releases far fewer toxins.

PMI’s campaign this week is called “It’s Time to Unsmoke”.

“We regard the PMI campaign as little more than a cynical attempt by the company to promote its deadly products,” Vinayak Prasad, head of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, told AFP.

WHO said there is no independent science backing PMI’s “harm reduction” claims, dismissing assertions that the smokeless tobacco products could help people quit smoking.

“The claim that these are cessation aids is not substantiated,” Prasad was quoted saying.

WHO’s campaign for World No Tobacco Day 2019 tomorrow is on how exposure to tobacco affects lung health. Tobacco kills more than eight million people annually, according to the WHO.

“Tobacco smoking is the primary cause for lung cancer, responsible for over two thirds of lung cancer deaths globally. Second-hand smoke exposure at home or in the workplace also increases risk of lung cancer,” said the WHO.

The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) called for a ban on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products tomorrow.

“While continuing to increase sales of cigarettes and oppose evidence-based tobacco control measures, such as tobacco taxation, transnational tobacco companies are aggressively promoting e-cigarettes and HTPs (heated tobacco products) as part of their revamped ‘smoke-free’ image and deceptive claim to be part of the solution; however, these new and emerging tobacco products pose new threats to human and environmental health,” said SEATCA executive director Dr Ulysses Dorotheo in a statement.

SEATCA urged Asean regulators not to allow the sale of PMI’s heated tobacco device IQOS on the basis that it has been allowed for sale in the United States.

“HTPs such as IQOS are not harmless, and the precautionary principle to protect consumer safety must be applied to HTPs,” said the multi-sectoral anti-tobacco group.

Tobacco use kills about 500,000 people a year in Asean, according to SEATCA.

PMI launched IQOS in Malaysia last November, selling it at selected specialty stores in the Klang Valley, Penang, and Johor Baru.

PMI’s competitors British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco, however, have yet to launch their heat-not-burn products here, pending the drafting of new legislation on smokeless tobacco devices.

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