27 Jul 2001
Philip Morris, the US tobacco giant behind Marlboro cigarettes, has apologised for funding a widely derided survey that found that the early deaths of smokers helped governments to save money.
“All of us at Philip Morris, no matter where we work, are extremely sorry for this,” the company’s chief executive, Geoffrey Bible, said.
Mr Bible said that the report on the Czech Republic, which claimed that smoking produced savings on pensions, healthcare and housing for the elderly, “exhibited terrible judgment as well as a complete and unacceptable disregard of basic human values”.
The report, produced by the consulting firm Arthur D Little International, showed that the Czech Republic had a net gain of £103m from smoking in 1999.
The country sold its state tobacco company to Philip Morris in the early 1990s. The corporation, which commands an 80% share of the local market, is one of the firm’s most profitable companies, making £57m profit there last year.
At present Philip Morris spends £70m a year in public relations to try to revamp its tarnished image. But full-page advertisements in leading US newspapers yesterday, including the New York Times, sullied its expensive makeover.
Placed by assorted anti-smoking groups, the adverts show a corpse with a price tag tied to a big toe saying, “$1,227, [£860] that’s how much a study sponsored by Philip Morris said the Czech Republic saves on healthcare, pensions and housing every time a smoker dies”.
Steven Parrish, a senior vice-president at Philip Morris, said that the company had cancelled plans for similar surveys in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia that compare the costs of smoking with the benefits to the state treasury, such as revenues from cigarette duty.
“We understand that this was not only a terrible mistake, but that it was wrong,” he said. “To say it’s inappropriate is an understatement.”
Last week, Philip Morris reported global second-quarter profits up by 5.4%, to £1.6bn.