Cigarettes: PMI’s plans to quit


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 1.1 billion people — 20% of the world population over the age of 15 — smoke.
“Many of those people will continue to look for tobacco products, so we’ve made it our mission to provide them with a smoke-free future,” said Jaime Suarez, chief digital officer of Philip Morris International (PMI), which is hosting a Fireside Chat session this morning to explain what happens when a Fortune 100 cigarette manufacturer and tobacco company decides to give up old-school cigarettes.

It might sound counter-intuitive for a cigarette company to be leading the way into a healthier future, given that smoking is estimated to be responsible for the death of around six million people a year. But, as Saurez said, “sometimes the solution to a problem comes from where you least it expect it”.
And certainly nobody knows more about smoking or smokers than PMI, which lays claims to be the world’s most successful cigarette company. “Consumer expectations have changed and people are demanding less harmful yet satisfying alternatives to smoking,” Saurez said. “We will give them that choice with our smoke-free products, which we believe will one day replace cigarettes.”

PMI’s mission in Cannes this week is to raise awareness of its smoke-free future and identify media partners to help it “reach out to different audiences at scale”, Saurez said. On the one hand, the challenge is to convert committed smokers to PMI’s reduced-risk alternatives; on the other, there is a work to do on changing the negative perceptions that have historically dogged smoking and smokers. PMI is also keen to reinforce the message that, while nothing is better for you than quitting smoking, changing to a low-risk, smoke-free product is healthier than sticking to combustibles.

Alongside PMI’s decision to stub out its legacy business, the tobacco giant is also transforming its internal modus operandi. “We’re becoming a more data-driven organisation, which enables us to move faster and be more dynamic,” Saurez said.
The session, entitled From Bad To Better: The Transformation Of One Tobacco Company, saw CEO Andre Calantzopoulos  talking to journalist Lee Woodruff.


Harriet Palmer