Philip Morris International VP – We Would Stop Business Tomorrow If Product Were Harmful

In a study done in collaboration with tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI), the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) concluded that the only way to uphold human rights would be for tobacco companies to immediately stop the sale and marketing of tobacco products, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf of GWU Law School.

The DIHR concluded that “tobacco is deeply harmful to human health, and there can be no doubt that the production and marketing of tobacco is irreconcilable with the human right to health. For the tobacco industry, the [United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] therefore require the cessation of the production and marketing of tobacco.”

Philip Morris International
Tarabiscuite / Pixabay

Allan Lerberg Jørgensen, Department Director, Human Rights and Development with the DIHR, stated they hoped their “input will enable PMI to better understand how the corporate responsibility to respect human rights applies to their business and take the necessary action.”

Such action is long overdo, says Banzhaf, founder of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the nation’s first – and in many ways the most effective – antismoking and nonsmokers’ rights organization.

He notes that then PMI Vice President George Weissman said that “if we had any thought or knowledge that in any way we were selling a product harmful to consumers, we would stop business tomorrow.”

Banzhaf argues that fulfilling that promise to the public is now very long overdo, since Philip Morris has admitted in many different venues that smoking its product kills millions of users, and that secondhand smoke likewise causes death and disability to many innocent bystanders, including children.

Long recognized as the nation’s and the world’s number one public health problem, marketing and tobacco products is now also increasingly being recognized as a major problem of human rights.

This is clearly reflected in the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC] which ASH helped to bring to fruition, and to implement for many years.

It provides that institutions “should interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products.”

For this and many other reasons, antismoking activists and others pressured the DIHR to terminate its relationship with PMI. It did so before its originally published end date of August 2017, but not before issuing this scathing condemnation of PMI’s knowing and continuing violation of human rights, says Banzhaf, who certainly does not expect PMI to heed the call anytime soon.