Philip Morris International (PMI) and Imperial Brands have hit back at allegations they are using the Covid-19 health crisis to improve their public image and gain access to politicians, reports Euronews.
Earlier this year PMI subsidiary Papastratos donated 50 respirators to help Greek hospitals cope with the pandemic. The Romanian Red Cross received a financial donation—reported to be $1 million—from PMI. PMI and Imperial Tobacco both donated money in Ukraine.
Critics denounced the gestures, suggesting they were part of a PR effort to lobby governments to loosen tobacco controls. They also said that the donations contravene the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
PMI and Imperial Tobacco denied wrongdoing.
“Imperial Tobacco Ukraine, as a prominent employer in Kyiv, was asked to donate one ventilator to the hospital by the regional authority and other local groups,” the company told Euronews.
“The business was happy to do so and did not seek any publicity. It is clear that no regulations have been breached and to be criticized for agreeing to support the Kyiv community in these challenging and unprecedented times is a disgrace,” Imperial Tobacco Ukraine wrote.
Nataliya Bondarenko, external affairs director at Philip Morris Ukraine, noted that the FCTC does not prohibit interactions between commercial operators and government organizations. Instead, she said, it asks parties to protect public health policies from the tobacco industry’s commercial and other vested interests.
“This provision implies that regulators should act with impartiality and transparency,” said Bondarenko. “Our donation was done in full compliance with the law, demonstrating our integrity and transparency.”