For decades, Philip Morris was one of the biggest and most profitable companies in the country. Then came a series of dramatic court decisions, legal challenges, and laws passed, one state after another. Suddenly smoking, which “everyone” did, was taboo, and a generation grew up believing cigarettes to be “killers” not “cool.”
As cultural trends in the United States and in Great Britain began to shift, the profitability of cigarettes tanked. Prices went up, but millions fewer people were smoking, and prices could only go up so far. Eventually, alternatives hit the market. Vaping became the “cool” activity, especially for younger people, who, in previous generations would have been the smokers. Now, something unthinkable just a few years ago has happened. Philip Morris is running a campaign promising to “give up cigarettes” in Britain in the New Year. The advertisements encourage smokers and others to give “smoke-free alternatives” to cigarettes a try.
Speaking to CNN, the company said: “Providing less harmful alternatives to smokers who would otherwise not quit is a common-sense approach to public health, embraced by a growing number of experts and health authorities worldwide… Today, science and technology allow us to provide smokers with better alternatives to cigarettes.” To help bolster the advertising campaign, Philip Morris developed and released a website called “Smoke-Free Future” in order to encourage people to stop smoking and to try other Philip Morris products. It should be noted that this effort is coming from Philip Morris International, which split from Philip Morris USA back in 2008. The effort has yet to find any traction or even any voice in the States. Though, in Britain, thanks to a strong cultural initiative to curb youth smoking, the idea is catching on quickly.
Even the British government is working on initiatives to stop people of all ages from smoking. The idea, in part, for them is to reduce healthcare costs, which have been shown to increase in correlation with smoking. Will the initiative catch on in the United States anytime soon? Hard to say. What can be said is that American tobacco companies have been ordered to “inform the public about the dangers of smoking,” according to CNN.
This directive may go even farther than the current “warning labels” on packs of cigarettes. Will it be enough to continue to push the anti-smoking cultural trend in the States? Tough to say at this point, but things do seem to be trending that direction.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.