Philip Morris International will stop selling Marlboro cigarettes in Britain within a decade, its chief executive told the Daily Mail, in line with the country’s wider ambition to stamp out smoking by 2030.
“I think in the UK, ten years from now maximum, you can completely solve the problem of smoking,” Chief Executive Officer Jacek Olczak said in the report, adding that it would require the help of governments and regulators.
Doing its part, Olczak said the Marlboro brand “will disappear” from British store shelves along with its other brands, ending a more than 100-year association with the country.
Olczak, who has embarked on a more aggressive strategy to diversify the world’s largest tobacco company away from cigarettes, has previously called on Britain to treat cigarettes like petrol cars and ban them in 10 years time.
The £111 billion-dollar company sells Marlboro cigarettes outside the US, after it split off from parent company Altria in 2008. Altria sells Marlboro in the US.
Earlier this month, Philip Morris launched a £1.05 billion bid for British asthma drug-maker Vectura as part of its “evolution into a broader healthcare and wellness company,” that will also see it get more than 50 per cent of its revenue from smoke-free products and at least $1 billion from products beyond nicotine by 2025.
The deal has received backlash from anti-tobacco groups and has spurred a reaction from the World Health Organization, which called such healthcare partnerships by Big Tobacco as undermining its progress on controlling its “deadly products.”
Meanwhile, campaigners have dismissed the call by Olczak for the UK government to ban cigarettes within ten years.
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: “We welcome PMI’s commitment to reduced risk products. However there are millions of adults who enjoy smoking cigarettes and don’t want to quit and that choice must be respected.
“If Philip Morris want to leave smoking behind, good luck to them, but banning cigarettes won’t stop people smoking. It will simply drive the product into the hands of criminal gangs who will happily sell illicit and counterfeit cigarettes to anyone who wants them, including children.
“We support the carrot not the stick approach to smoking cessation. Trying to force smokers to quit by banning cigarettes is illiberal and a fool’s errand that will end badly.”