The top executive for tobacco giant Philip Morris International told The Daily Mail Sunday that the company will stop selling cigarettes in the United Kingdom in the next 10 years.
The company’s CEO Jacek Olczak said the company’s iconic Marlboro brand of cigarettes will be taken off the shelves in the U.K. within the next decade.
“It will disappear. The first choice for consumers is they should quit smoking,” he told the outlet. “But if they don’t, the second best choice is to let them switch to the better alternatives.”
The development is just part of Philip Morris International’s reinvention as it abandons traditional tobacco products.
Olczak became the company’s CEO in May and plans to lead the company’s “smoke-free” transformation. He said the company’s new mission is to find and provide “less harmful alternatives to cigarettes” to the millions of people who would otherwise still smoke.
In May he said, “Our ambition is that more than half of our net revenues will come from smoke-free products in 2025.”
U.K. aims for smoke-free future, too
The company’s efforts are part of a much wider societal change in attitudes toward smoking, especially in the U.K. The government recently announced its own goal to make England smoke-free by 2030. The U.K will be considered “smoke-free” when the nation’s smoking rates are less than 5%.
The pushback against cigarettes over the past several years are tied to the severe health problems caused by smoking highly-addictive tobacco around the world.
The World Health Organization says “the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.” It kills more than eight million people a year — seven million of those deaths are directly linked to tobacco use. More than one million other deaths are from non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Citing the nation’s Chief Medical Officer, a recent U.K. government report said smoking will kill more people in the U.K. than COVID-19, both this year and in 2020.
“Recent analysis shows it kills up to two thirds of long-term users,” the report said.
Approximately 14% of the U.K. adult population smoke. Based on current trends, the most disadvantaged communities will not be smoke-free until 2045, according to the report.
Scotland’s ambition is to achieve this smoke-free goal by 2034, with no dates set yet for Wales or Northern Ireland.
Philip Morris bets on cigarette alternatives
Philip Morris International is not abandoning products geared toward smokers entirely, despite its pledge.
It’s focusing more on developing tobacco heating systems, like e-cigarettes which still “create a nicotine-containing tobacco vapor,” the company said.
The cigarette maker says on its website “smoke-free products” are not “risk free” but “are a far better choice than cigarette smoking.”
Philip Morris recently announced it will acquire Vectura Group, a British pharmaceuticals company that produces inhalers, and Denmark-based Fertin Pharma, a nicotine gum maker. The purchase of Vectura drew criticism from people who found issue with a tobacco company, that while still making money from cigarettes, is positioning itself as one that is anti-smoking.