Philip Morris pledges RM4.2b to group fighting smoking

LONDONPhilip Morris International Inc said it will spend about US$1 billion (RM4.2 billion) setting up a foundation to reduce the prevalence of smoking as the maker of Marlboro cigarettes aims to convert smokers into consumers of devices that don’t burn tobacco.

Derek Yach, a former World Health Organisation official who worked on a global tobacco treaty, will lead the group, according to a statement yesterday. The cigarette maker said it plans to spend about US$80 million annually over 12 years on the project, starting in 2018.

More than three million smokers have switched to Philip Morris’ IQOS, which heats rather than burns tobacco. The Marlboro maker has applied to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval to market the device as a product that may reduce the risk of smoking-related diseases. The FDA said in July it’s considering regulations that would reduce the nicotine in cigarettes below addictive levels, which led to a slump in tobacco stocks.

While the new foundation appears to be a rare example of a consumer-goods company supporting efforts to undermine sales of its own products, its creation was greeted with scepticism by one anti-smoking organisation.

“The tobacco industry has a terrible track record of funding research designed to support its efforts to block policies to cut smoking,” Deborah Arnott, CEO of London-based Action on Smoking and Health, said in a statement. — Bloomberg