• May 23, 2024

Fat cat executives slammed

fat cats photo
Photo by Big Eyed Sol

Campaigners have criticised Philip Morris International after it was reported that the tobacco company was supporting an increase in taxes on cigarettes in the UK to encourage smokers to switch to alternative nicotine products.

“It’s very easy for fat cat executives to call for the tax on cigarettes to be increased,” said Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco).

“The hardest hit will be the less well-off including the low paid and the elderly who have to survive on a state pension.”

Clark made it clear that Forest supported the development of safer nicotine products including electronic cigarettes because it supported choice.

“But making smoking even more expensive when we already have punitive levels of taxation discriminates against consumers who choose to smoke,” he said.

Clark accused Philip Morris of wanting to force smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes and other products.

“New nicotine products are great because they give smokers a choice,” he said.

“However, many smokers enjoy smoking and don’t want to switch.

“Government, the anti-smoking industry and Philip Morris should respect that choice and focus on education not coercion.”

PMI has put a lot of investment into reduced-risk products, especially its iQOS heated-tobacco device. In September, it inaugurated its first manufacturing facility for the large-scale production of two heated-tobacco alternatives to cigarettes – a facility that was said at the time to represent ‘an anticipated investment of approximately €500 million’.

Towards the end of last year, PMI’s CEO, André Calantzopoulos, in announcing that iQOS would be launched in the UK, said he would like to work with governments towards the “phase-out” of conventional cigarettes. He was quoted by the BBC as saying that the company knew its products harmed their consumers and that the only correct response was to “to find and commercialise” ones that were less harmful. “That is clearly our objective,” he said.

But iQOS is proving to be a hard sell in respect of some authorities. Earlier this year a report in Australia said that PMI was unlikely to get permission to sell its iQOS heated tobacco device in that country under current regulations, and the New Zealand’s Ministry of Health was said in report in that country to have declared that a heated-tobacco product launched in New Zealand by PMI was illegal.

The European Commission has said that it is in favor of a cautious approach to heated-tobacco products because it believes that there is a lack of evidence relating to the short- and long-term health effects of using such devices.

Christopher Hope, chief political correspondent reported in the Daily Telegraph on Friday that Philip Morris international ‘has for the first time asked to be taxed more by [UK] Chancellor Philip Hammond – to encourage smokers to switch to healthier alternatives’

The Telegraph story is at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/03/tax-us-worlds-biggest-cigarette-maker-tells-philip-hammond/.