One of the world is biggest tobacco firms, Philip Morris, has been accused of "staggering hypocrisy" over its new ad campaign that urges smokers to quit, reports BBC. The Marlboro maker said the move was "an important next step" in its aim to "ultimately stop selling cigarettes". But Cancer Research said the firm was simply trying to promote its smoking alternatives, such as heated tobacco.
"This is staggering hypocrisy," it said, pointing out the firm still promotes smoking outside the UK.
"The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes," said George Butterworth, Cancer Research UKs tobacco policy manager.
The charity encouraged people to stop smoking completely, including through e-cigarettes, saying that smoking was the leading preventable cause of cancer.
The campaign, called Hold My Light, which launched in a four-page wraparound on Mondays Daily Mirror drew flak from the jealth charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) too, saying it was a way for Philip Morris to get around the UKs anti-tobacco advertising rules.
Most forms of tobacco advertising and advertising in the UK are banned, and cigarettes and tobacco must be sold in plain green packets according to regulations.
Philip Morris was still advertising its Marlboro brand wherever it was legal to do so across the globe, said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash.
It can no longer do that in the UK as it is a dark market where all advertising, promotion and sponsorship in relation to cigarettes is banned, she said.
"So instead Philip Morris is promoting the company name which is inextricably linked with Marlboro," she said.
Philip Morris has said previously that it wants to achieve a "smoke-free" future.
In the UK, it markets several alternatives to cigarettes, including a heated tobacco product, Iqos as part of its focus on new products to replace cigarettes as the number of smokers in the UK continues to decline.
It also owns the Nicocig, Vivid and Mesh e-cigarette brands.
IT TAKES TIME
The new advertising campaign was "about supporting smokers in finding alternatives" said hTe firms Managing Director Peter Nixon.
Asked why, if Philip Morris was so keen for smokers to quit, it did not simply stop making cigarettes and focus entirely on alternative products, he said it was because smokers would just switch to a rival product.
"Cigarettes still generate 87 percent of our business. We want to get to smoke-free as soon as possible, and we want to be selling alternatives, but it does take time," he said.
Nixon said the firm had invested over £4bn in developing alternative products to cigarettes.
The campaign suggests four ways to give up cigarettes, including going cold turkey, using nicotine patches, vaping and using heated tobacco products.
In an unusual move, the Daily Mirror made a reference in its editorial column to the advertising feature which envelops the paper. It said it was "pleased to back the campaign".
"Yes, we were surprised too that this is a campaign created by Philip Morris Ltd. But it can only be a good thing that they are now trying to encourage people to quit cigarettes," it added.
In July last year, the government set out a plan to make England, in effect, smoke-free in the next few decades.
The new Tobacco Control Plan aimed to cut smoking rates from 15.5 percent to 12 percent of the population by 2022.