The remarks come amid declining numbers of smokers in the UK – where cigarettes have been sold in plain packaging since 2016 – and broader action by the UK government to reduce the prevalence of smoking.
Many investors have already removed tobacco from their portfolios, and a growing number of financial institutions have committed to implementing tobacco-free policies.
Philip Morris International (PM) CEO Jacek Olczak told the Sunday Telegraph that the UK government should treat cigarettes like gasoline cars, the sale of which should be banned from 2030.
The company added in a statement Monday that it “can see a world without cigarettes.”
“The sooner this happens, the better it will be for everyone,” said Vice President of Strategic and Scientific Communications Moira Gilchrist. “With the right measures in place, [Philip Morris] may stop selling cigarettes in the UK in 10 years, ”she added.
According to the World Health Organization, smoking, including inhaling second-hand smoke, kills more than 8 million people each year. This compares to around 4.1 million deaths from Covid-19 recorded to date.
Philip Morris International, which has been separated from the New York listed company Altria (MO) in 2008, invested $ 8 billion and hired dozens of scientists and technicians to develop low-risk alternatives to cigarettes, including its flagship product IQOS, which heats rather than burns tobacco.
“Quitting is the best option, but for those who don’t, science and technology have made it possible for companies like ours to create better alternatives to continuing to smoke,” said Gilchrist. The company aims to generate more than 50% of its net sales from smoke-free products within four years, compared to around a quarter currently.
Earlier this month, Phillip Morris International announced that it had agreed to a $ 1.2 billion deal to buy UK asthma inhaler maker Vectura. The tobacco company said in a statement that the transaction was part of its “Beyond Nicotine” strategy.
Anti-tobacco activists expressed skepticism about the company’s plans on Monday. Critics have long questioned how determined the tobacco industry is to change, given its past use of propaganda to protect its interests.
“Philip Morris has claimed that he has wanted to see an end to smoking for years now, but how can such claims be taken seriously by a company that sells more than one in ten smoked cigarettes worldwide?”, Deborah Arnott, CEO of UK public health charity Action on Smoking and Health said in a statement Monday.
She added that “fine words” are not the answer and that companies such as Philip Morris should fund government-backed campaigns to discourage smoking and help smokers quit.
The UK government announced its ambition in 2019 to end smoking in England by 2030. Last year it unveiled its ‘Smoke-Free 2030 Roadmap’, which includes a proposal to oblige manufacturers of tobacco to finance aid to smokers to quit smoking.
– Lauren Gunn contributed reporting.