Philip Morris, Known for the Marlboro brand among other smoking products, has received criticism over its ‘hold my light’ campaign encouraging smokers to quit.
The tobacco company was called out for its ‘staggering hypocrisy’ over the ad. The Marlboro makers said the ad was ‘an important next step’ in its aim to ‘ultimately stop selling cigarettes.’
Cancer Research believes the ad was a ruse by the company to promote its smoking alternatives
‘This is a staggering hypocrisy,’ it said, pointing out the firm still promotes smoking outside the UK.
‘The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes,’ George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager said.
The charity is itself advocating for people to leave smoking altogether, including smoking alternatives like e-cigarettes. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer.
Health charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) also criticised the campaign – which is called Hold My Light and has been launched in a four-page wraparound on Monday’s Daily Mirror – saying it was a way for Philip Morris to get around the UK’s anti-tobacco advertising rules.
There is also a campaign video, which shows a young woman negotiating a Mission Impossible-style room in order to hand her cigarette lighter over to a group of friends, who are supporting her in a bid to give up smoking.
Most forms of tobacco advertising and promotion in the UK are banned, and rules introduced last year mean cigarettes and tobacco must be sold in plain green packets.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said Philip Morris was still advertising its Marlboro brand wherever globally it was legal to do so.
‘The fact of the matter is that it can no longer do that in the UK, we’re a dark market where all advertising, promotion and sponsorship is banned, and cigarettes are in plain packs.
‘So instead Philip Morris is promoting the company name which is inextricably linked with Marlboro,’ she said.
Philip Morris has said previously that it wants to achieve a ‘smoke-free’ future.
Like many tobacco firms, Philip Morris is moving towards a focus on new products to replace cigarettes as the number of smokers in the UK continues to decline.
In the UK, it markets several alternatives to cigarettes, including a heated tobacco product, Iqos.
It also owns the Nicocig, Vivid and Mesh e-cigarette brands.
The firm’s Position in ‘supporting smokers to find alternatives’
The firm’s managing director Peter Nixon said its new advertising campaign was ‘about supporting smokers in finding alternatives.’
When asked why the company didn’t just stop making cigarettes altogether instead of focusing on alternative products, Peter Nixon said it was because smokers would just switch to a rival product
‘Cigarettes still generate 87% of our business. We want to get to [smoke-free] as soon as possible, and we want to be selling alternatives, but it does take time,’ he said.
Mr. Nixon said the firm had invested over £4bn in developing alternative products to cigarettes.
The campaign suggests four ways to give up cigarettes, including going cold turkey, using nicotine patches, vaping and using heated tobacco products.
In an unusual move, the Daily Mirror while referencing the advertising campaign in tis editorial said it was ‘pleased to back the campaign.’
It added: ‘Yes, we were surprised too that this is a campaign created by Philip Morris Ltd. But it can only be a good thing that they are now trying to encourage people to quit cigarettes.’
In July last year, the government set out a plan to make England, in effect, smoke-free in the next few decades.
The new Tobacco Control Plan aimed to cut smoking rates from 15.5% to 12% of the population by 2022.