Head of tobacco company states that tobacco “is not that hard to quit”


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The CEO of international tobacco company Philip Morris International Inc. told a cancer nurse that cigarettes are not that hard to quit, the Associated Press reports.

CEO Louis C. Camilleri‘s statements were made at an annual shareholder meeting in New York, where executives from tobacco corporations such as Marlboro and other brands clashed with anti-tobbaco groups and other ‘corporate accountability groups’. A nurse identified as Elisabeth Gundersen cited statistics regarding tobbaco use, such as the fact that tobacco kills over 400,000 Americans and more than 5 million people worldwide each year. She also said that a patient remarked that out of all the addictions he’d beaten, including crack, cocaine and meth, cigarettes had been the most difficult. Gundersen is a member of the Nightingales Nurses, an anti-tobacco activist group that focuses on raises public attention on the tobacco industry.

Camilleri, described by Associated Press as “often-unapologetic”, replied to the nurse’s statements by belittling tobacco’s addiction. He stated: “We take our responsibility very seriously, and I don’t think we get enough recognition for the efforts we make to ensure that there is effective worldwide regulation of a product that is harmful and that is addictive. Nevertheless, whilst it is addictive, it is not that hard to quit… There are more previous smokers in America today than current smokers.”

Philip Gorham, Morninstar analysist, said it is the addictiveness that makes the tobacco industry such a profitable business, saying: “It’s in the interest of executives to give the impression that they don’t want new smokers to take up smoking, that they believe that people who do, can quit, but the statistics tell another story.”

Following Camilleri’s statement, Philip Morris International came back with its disclaimer that “tobacco products are addictive and harmful.”

The U.S. Public Health Service says around 45% of U.S. smokers try to quit each year, yet only  4 to 7%  of them are successful.

Camilleri also talked about the challenges that the tobacco industry is facing during the shareholder meeting, describing how tax hikes, increased regulation, bans on product displays and ingredients and further restrictions could impede competition and add costs for retailers. Last year, Philip Morris International’s profits rose by 14.5%. The company has raised prices and focused on emerging markets for growth as cigarette demand falls, the Associated Press writes. Philip Morris International is the world’s largest non-governmental cigarette seller, selling such big brands as Marlboro and L&M.

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