Open Letter from Philip Morris International CEO

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Written by André Calantzopoulos

Dear Global Leadership Community,

As the CEO of Philip Morris International (PMI), I’m often asked why we do not stop selling cigarettes. Perhaps this is the wrong question. The right question might be: “When will people stop buying cigarettes?”

Today, consumer demand for cigarettes remains. Even with increasing prevention and cessation efforts worldwide, there are more than 1 billion people who smoke cigarettes. And according to the World Health Organization, there will still be more than 1 billion people who smoke in 2025. These people are your constituents, your neighbors and, perhaps, your friends and family. We have to look at alternative solutions for each and every one of these individuals.

That’s why at PMI we are committed to creating a smoke-free future. It’s a transformative vision, one that will change society: A future that does not include cigarettes. And we want to get there as quickly as possible.

Our ambition is to convince all adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking cigarettes to switch to scientifically substantiated smoke-free products, which are a much better alternative for them. We have invested more than $4.5 billion USD in research, development and production to provide adult smokers with better options. Behind this investment, and every advancement at PMI, is robust science. We are harnessing recent breakthroughs in technology to develop smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes that are much less harmful than continued smoking.

Yes, in an ideal world, all smokers should quit tobacco and nicotine consumption completely. This is the lowest-risk scenario compared with cigarette smoking.

But we don’t live in a world where this can or will happen automatically—or even anytime soon.

Those who are suspicious of our intentions, who block progress without taking time to understand the science and the size of the public health opportunity, do smokers a great disservice. As we drive toward a future that is smoke-free, these detractors have become disablers of public health solutions. They are blocking change, and many smokers are being denied these alternatives.

What is more important: helping smokers or hating us? Frankly, I don’t think it’s reasonable to essentially condemn a population to only smoke cigarettes when there are better alternatives to smoking available. Can you imagine the criticism I would face if, years from now, it was discovered that we had better options to offer people that smoke but left them in the laboratory?

That’s why I’m appealing for collaborative action. For consideration and a willingness of governments, regulators, NGOs and individuals to consider the scientific assessment of and evidence for alternative products. To be open to new concepts, conversation and change.

Consider this: In the few short years since we have commercialized smoke-free alternatives, millions of men and women have switched to products that are a better choice than continuing to smoke. By working together, through innovative products that meet the different needs of adult smokers, along with forward-thinking regulators and public health officials, we can speed up the progress to a smoke-free future. A future that will create a better world for the more than 1 billion adult smokers—and the people who care about them.

This is why we are dedicated to rigorous science and innovation that can lead to a better future.

This is why we must continue to call for an open dialogue across all sectors and of all points of view, including those who disagree with us.

This is why we hope that as you read this now, you will look objectively at what we’re trying to achieve and join the debate for change.

This is our why.

André Calantzopoulos
Chief Executive Officer
Philip Morris International