Philip Morris International Licensing Marlboro Production in Uzbekistan is More Evidence Its “Unsmoke” Rhetoric Is A Lie

New York, (December 5, 2019) — Global tobacco industry watchdog STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products) today criticized Philip Morris International (PMI) amid reports that PMI will start producing Marlboro and other brands in Uzbekistan via an agreement with a local tobacco company. The following is a statement from Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President at Vital Strategies and a partner in STOP:

“The hypocrisy of PMI’s smoke-free rhetoric is on full display. It will begin making cigarettes via a third party in yet another emerging market while it runs a global campaign saying it is moving towards a smoke-free world. PMI already manufactures hundreds of billions of cigarettes every year and, for the citizens of Uzbekistan, the source of the tobacco epidemic just got a lot closer to home. According to The Tobacco Atlas, more than 18,000 people die every year from tobacco use in Uzbekistan, but PMI sees only a market opportunity.

This is not the first time, even this year, that PMI has acted to expand sales of its cigarette brands in a low or middle-income country. In March 2019, just weeks before its ‘Year of Unsmoke’ campaign started, PMI began marketing “Philip Morris Bold,” a new brand in Indonesia.

No-one can trust PMI’s claim to be a responsible actor when this claim is so clearly disproved by the facts. Policymakers should reject any approach from the company and focus on implementing strong tobacco control policies that protect health.”

Background
PMI has an investment cooperation agreement with Tashkent Tobacco in Uzbekistan. Local news reports state that Tashkent Tobacco will begin licensed production of PMI’s Marlboro, Parliament and L&M cigarette brands, with an official launch ceremony in December. The reports also claim that government ministers will attend the launch event alongside senior executives from PMI.

STOP’s Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index, published in October, recommends that policymakers should limit their interactions with the tobacco industry and that governments officials should be firewalled from contact with tobacco companies. Influencing high-level policies through vehicles like investment agreements is just one of the strategies documented in STOP’s Crooked Nine report. The report lists the tactics tobacco companies use to meddle in health policy around the world.

According to The Tobacco Atlas, 19 percent of adult males and around one percent of adult females in Uzbekistan are daily smokers. The economic cost of smoking in Uzbekistan is estimated to be 1,660,238 million som (more than US$ 174 million), including direct costs related to healthcare expenditures and indirect costs related to lost productivity due to early mortality and morbidity. Tobacco control legislation in Uzbekistan is limited and incomplete. No measure attains the level of best practice recommended by the World Health Organization. This lack of comprehensive and strong legislation provides an opportunity for tobacco companies seeking to target new consumers.

Please contact the STOP press office for more information or to speak to a STOP spokesperson.


About STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products)
STOP is a global tobacco industry watchdog whose mission is to expose the tobacco industry strategies and tactics that undermine public health. STOP is a partnership between The Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, The Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, and Vital Strategies. Learn more at exposetobacco.org.