It appeared in my Facebook timeline and took me by surprise. A Greek island is aiming to be smoke free. Nice initiative. Nice touchy feely video and all. Oh, wait a minute. It is sponsored by Philip Morris. How does that work?
I mean seriously. How do we allow that to work?
The first set of problems has to do with legal issues. In Greece nobody enforces smoking laws. People smoke everywhere. I was in court recently sitting under a sign that read “smoking is prohibited by law XYZ and smokers will be arrested and prosecute immediately.” Two people smoking next to a policeman. I tell him to do something, he asks them politely. They decline. End of story. So is Philip Morris going to pay for better policing? Of course not.
Which brings us to the second set of problems. When they say “smoke free” they don’t mean that they will help everyone quit. They mean switch from regular cigarettes to their new smoke free products. Which they admit are not proven in any way to be better. In their words: “Studies on our most advanced smoke-free product, IQOS, are progressing rapidly and the results are encouraging.” So they are pushing people from one of their products which we know for sure is bad for you, to another one of their products which we don’t know yet.
The third, very glaring problem, is the selectivity of it all. Funnily enough in Greece they recently passed a strange law against vaping products without nicotine. It is almost as if someone bribed law makers to bend laws in their direction, no, wait, that is the sort of thing that happens in films. Films depicting what the tobacco companies did in the past in fact.
And of course there is a fundamental, logical problem. Philip Morris is in the business of selling products for smoking. “We’re dedicated to doing something very dramatic – replacing cigarettes with the smoke-free products that we’re developing and selling.” That is the closest you get to a mission statement. So they are not are not actually going to help the Greek island reduce smoking, they just want to get visitors and locals to switch to their products. This would be acceptable maybe as a step in the right direction if a) we were sure it is better for your health and b)if they did it all around the world. But of course in other countries where they can still sell traditional cigarettes, that is what they sell there. They are lying in your face and not even holding crossed fingers behind their back.
The history of American Tobacco, their lies and deceits and straight out illegal monstrosities has been relatively well documented. This new chapter emulates Donald Trump’s sheer audacity in lying straight to your face but makes it worse but applying a veneer of do-goodery. A tobacco company paying a municipality to pretend it is doing something about a public health problem when in fact it is just giving free reign to Philip Morris to sell and promote their products like crazy all over the island.
It would be great if there was someone that could do something about it.