Yet the company, which pledged to move toward a “smoke-free future” as it transitions to cigarette alternatives was among the organizations featured in the Cannes Lions Good Track.
Vital Strategies, the global health organization behind the Quit Big Tobacco pledge, objected to the company’s inclusion on a track which included organizations devoted to children’s education, women’s rights and environmental concerns. According to Cannes Lions’ website, The Good Track is devoted to “brands, talent and industry leaders who shift culture, create change and positively impact society.”
“The inclusion of Philip Morris International in Cannes Lions as a ‘Good Track’ organization alongside the likes of Sesame Street, UN Women and Greenpeace is puzzling at best and deeply troubling at worst,” Vital Strategies senior vice president Sandra Mullin said in a statement. “PMI and other tobacco companies cause a worldwide toll of more than 7 million deaths a year. Their inclusion in this program is all the more ironic, as their main purpose remains to market products that also harm children, women and the environment – the very causes with which they are sharing a track.”
“Their appearance at Cannes is a calculated effort by a deservedly maligned industry to remain relevant and to continue to thrive. They are positioning their latest marketing strategy as a conscience-driven, reputation-refurbishing mission of working towards a ‘smoke free world.’ This, despite the fact that they will produce 800 billion cigarettes in 2019, a testament to their empty rhetoric and their disregard for health,” she added. “It’s a shame that Cannes organizers fell for PMI’s disguise. PMI is the opposite of social good: they continue to promote cigarettes to children, market flavored cigarettes, and aggressively market their products near schools.”
Mullin concluded by calling on creative agencies to sing the Quit Big Tobacco pledge, as many already have.
A representative for Cannes Lions parent company Ascential Events was not immediately available for comment.