ERA-FoEN flays Philip Morris International over misinformation campaign
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has lashed Philip Morris International (PMI) for funding the training of senior journalists in Naivasha, Kenya, describing it as deceptive and strategy to misinform media campaign against tobacco harm.
The theme for the Kenya training is Tobacco Harm Reduction: Towards a Smoke-free World.
ERA/FoEN stated in Port Harcourt: “We find this absurd in the light that PMI continues to manufacture cigarettes and deploys new tactics to undermine tobacco control efforts globally.”
ERA/FoEN noted that the latest activity by PMI was mere pretense by the international tobacco company to promote itself as a supporter of a “smoke-free world” while in reality PMI is undermining regulations across the continent to stop tobacco production.
According to ERA/FoEN, “PMI un-repentantly continues to misinform the media and the general public using concepts that seem tailored to reducing tobacco harms but in reality undermined efforts by governments to implement effective tobacco control policies.”
It would be recalled that in September 2017, PMI announced an annual support of $80 million for the establishment of a Foundation for a Smoke-free World over the next 12 years. That announcement which was aimed at burnishing the corporation’s image, according to ERA/FoEN, was however greeted with criticism by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and a host of non-governmental organisations across the globe.
The WHO distanced itself from the initiative and asked governments to do same.
ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, stated: “Governments in Africa and media practitioners should be alarmed that PMI, while increasing the production and marketing of its deadly wares on the continent is now talking about tobacco harms reduction through its so-called trainings. It is totally objectionable.”
Oluwafemi pointed out that a very dangerous dimension to PMI new tactic is the muddling of public health policy issues in its quest to grab more lungs, stressing, “or else, how can it be imagined that a known producer of a lethal product is talking of helping governments achieve goal three of the Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) which promotes Good health and well-being?
“We can see through this deception. Again if PMI is interested in a smoke-free world all it needs to do is stop cigarette production and stop undermining regulations across our continent.”
He advised that governments discontinue engagements with PMI that conflicts with the World Health Organisation- Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), and particularly strengthen the implementation of Article 5.3 which explicitly obligates Parties to act to protect their public health policies from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.
He maintained that there is a global consensus about how to reduce tobacco use which has nothing to do with lack of evidence requiring research, but has everything to do with PMI and other tobacco companies doggedly fighting strong policies proven to reduce tobacco use around the world such as higher tobacco taxes, graphic health warnings and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
“PMI should stop gambling with our lungs through its deceptive concept of a smoke-free world. There is no safe alternative to the manufacturing, sale and marketing of tobacco products. Attempting to confuse the media with its deceptive message is totally unacceptable”, he insisted.