One of the largest tobacco companies in the world, Philip Morris, has been slammed for what critics have described as "staggering hypocrisy" over a new UK advertising campaign in which it urges smokers to quit.
The company, which produces some of the world's most renowned tobacco products, including Marlboro cigarettes, launched the unprecedented awareness initiative dubbed ‘hold my light' on Monday, October 22, in a four-page wraparound in the UK's Daily Mirror newspaper.
— Philip Morris UK (@PhilipMorrisUK) October 22, 2018
It has also released a number of short videos in which spokespersons can be heard warning of the health risks of smoking tobacco.
— Philip Morris UK (@PhilipMorrisUK) October 11, 2018
The campaign calls for smokers to seek out support from friends and family in order to kick the cancerous habit. It also says that smokers should consider "better alternatives," such as e-cigarettes.
However, charities that make their name by rallying against 'big tobacco' have cast a scornful eye onto what they see as Philip Morris' underlying motives.
George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK's tobacco policy manager, has been widely quoted in the British media as accusing Philip Morris of "staggering hypocrisy."
"The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes," he reportedly lamented.
The tobacco giant has however defended itself, allegedly saying that the advertising campaign, is "an important next step" in its grand aim to "ultimately stop selling cigarettes."
As with many of the world's leading tobacco titans, Philip Morris has started to invest heavily in new lines of products intended to replace cigarettes as the number of smokers in countries like the UK hits the terminal decline. These include e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.
— Philip Morris UK (@PhilipMorrisUK) October 12, 2018
Yet, Morris' assuaging has done little to calm the tsunami of criticism that continues to swell.
UK-based health charity 'Action on Smoking and Health' (ASH) has also blasted the advertising campaign as a cynical ploy used by Morris to get around the UK's strict anti-tobacco advertising rules.
Almost all forms of public tobacco advertising are banned in the UK, along with the introduction of new legislation last year that made it compulsory for cigarettes and rolling tobacco to be sold in plain green packaging.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, is widely quoted as pointing out that Philip Morris was still advertising its Marlboro brand wherever in the world it is still legal to do so.
"The fact of the matter is that it can no longer do that in the UK, we're a dark market where all advertising, promotion and sponsorship is banned, and cigarettes are in plain packs. So instead Philip Morris is promoting the company name which is inextricably linked with Marlboro," she reportedly said.
On top of that, ASH's policy director, Hazel Cheeseman, has been quoted by the UK's Sky News as saying that, "a massively profitable global tobacco company is selling the line that they've turned over a new leaf in an effort to flog their latest gadgets."
Yet, despite the accusations of corporate dishonesty, Philip Morris says that it is serious about looking toward the alternative of a smoke-free future. The company's managing director, Peter Nixon, released a statement saying that "there are more options than ever before for smokers to give up cigarettes but often they don't realise that alternatives, like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco are a better choice than continuing to smoke."