Jacek Olczak, Chief Executive Officer of Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) (NYSE: PM), delivered remarks at the UnHerd Club in London, calling on governments globally to accelerate the end of cigarettes.
In his remarks to global media, politicians, and policymakers, Olczak shared that, “cigarettes belong in museums” but that current policies to reduce smoking prevalence are not working fast enough and may be prolonging smoking.
Drawing upon a new hypothetical model based on World Health Organization data, estimates, and methods, Olczak explained that if people who currently smoke were to switch to safer alternatives, then over their lifetime there’s a potential for a tenfold reduction in smoking-attributable deaths compared with historical tobacco control measures alone. He highlighted the absurd paradox that cigarettes—despite their far greater risk of harm—can still be sold while safer alternatives have not yet seen an active adoption. While this model has limitations and is built on assumptions, the public health cost of ignoring the potential of smoke-free products could be immense.
In 2016, PMI committed to moving away from cigarettes. The company has invested more than USD 10.5 billion (as of March 31, 2023) since 2008 in developing and commercializing safer alternatives—which today account for nearly 35 percent of the company’s total net revenues. The mission, Olczak explained, is to reduce smoking by replacing cigarettes with less harmful alternatives and ultimately to make cigarettes obsolete.
He called on governments around the world to follow the examples of countries like Sweden and Japan and adopt policies that give adult smokers who don’t quit a wide choice of alternatives to continuing smoking so they can make better choices and cigarettes can become a historical artifact.