With declining smoking rates in the UK, the e-cigarette industry has been steadily growing. Major producers are often running campaigns, encouraging smokers to switch. And with claims that e-cigarettes are up to 95% less harmful than regular cigarettes, it’s not hard to see why.
However, one of the latest campaigns from Philip Morris, who produce several cigarette brands including Marlboro, is under fire from anti-smoking campaigners.
The latest campaign, called “Hold My Light”, is targeting current smokers, encouraging them to switch to vaping or other smokeless products. Featured on The Sun – one of the UK’s best selling newspapers – smokers are challenged to give up smoking for 30 days.
It goes on to suggest that e-cigarettes and other products can be used to help. Philip Morris owns a number of e-cigarette brands including Vidid and Nicocig.
But e-cigarettes are less dangerous, right? So what’s the problem?
The main criticism put forward by campaigners is that the advert is “hypocritical”. According to Public Health England, 400,000 people stopped smoking in England last year, and it’s recently been predicted that by 2023, just 10% of people in England will be smokers.
In light of this, Philip Morris have been accused of “jumping on the bandwagon”, meanwhile still making huge profits on cigarette sales around the world.
According to George Butterworth, Senior Policy Manager at Cancer Research UK: “This is a staggering hypocrisy from a tobacco company to promote its own smoking cessation products in the UK while continuing to promote tobacco cigarettes across the world. The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes”
Additionally, in an interview, Chief Executive of charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Deborah Arnott said: “It’s not that the message is the wrong one — it’s that it’s hypocritical for a company that is still promoting smoking in most parts of the world to be saying that it’s turned over a new leaf.”
“They’re basically hanging on the coattails of government anti-smoking regulation that has worked, and they’re trying to get some kind of benefit for them from it. They’re looking for a commercial advantage, make no mistake.”
However, a spokesperson for Philip Morris argued: “This campaign is designed to stop people smoking and to give up cigarettes as fast as possible.If we simply stopped selling cigarettes tomorrow, literally all that would happen is that smokers would switch to our competitors’ products.”
This follows the company’s new year campaign, which featured the tagline “Our New Year’s Resolution: we’re trying to give up cigarettes”, which also encouraged smokers to switch to vaping and other tobacco alternatives.