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The Joke of the Century: Philip Morris offers its services to the NHS
Big Tobacco seems ready to do just about anything to sell its products. Cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris, which is already known internationally as a tobacco giant, does not appear to be satisfied with dominating the market. The company continues to search for new ways to satisfy the needs of consumers, and recently dared to write a letter to Matthew Hancock, health secretary for Britain’s public healthcare system, the National Health Service (NHS). In the letter, the creator of Marlboro and other international brands offered its help to fight against tobacco addiction by using the help of IQOS.
The company’s new-generation electronic cigarette looks like a pen. Using the use of a cigarette filter that slides in, the device then heats up the tobacco to emit a vapor. This hypbrid product contains tobacco, but does not produce any smoke. Consequently, users do not inhale any tar or carbon monoxide. According to the company, IQOS is less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but British health officials remain skeptical.
An “audacious” business decision
Philip Morris’ Director of General Affairs in the United Kingdom, Mark MacGregor, has responded to critics. “To celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the National Health Service, we are proud to offer our services to help 73,000 NHS employees quit smoking. It will involve a collaborative campaign, as the NHS will provide the necessary details to help people wean themselves off of nicotine dependence. For those people who are unable to quit nicotine altogether, we can help by offering an alternative and smoke-free product”.
Steve Brine, undersecretary to the Ministry of Health, strongly opposes the company’s intrusion into public health concerns. He not only deems this marketing ploy inappropriate, but further believes it is in violation of the World Health Organization’s regulations—each year, companies like Philip Morris cause thousands of deaths.
In the opinion of Deborah Arnott, the director of Action on Smoking and Health, a charity organization, Philip Morris’ initiative is nothing more than a shameful marketing strategy. Despite undeniable evidence to the contrary, Philip Morris has long refused to acknowledge just how dangerous tobacco is for public health, notably the relation between smoking and cancer. Today, Philip Morris is convinced that it has an essential role to play in helping smokers stay healthy and live longer lives. Of course, there is no doubt that the billions of dollars invested into the development of IQOS are anything but an attempt to win-over smokers by pointing them towards the alleged “alternative product” …
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