With a packet of 20 Marlboro Gold in the UK setting you back at around £11, it may seem surprising that Philip Morris has plans to stop selling here. The parent company of Marlboro, Philip Morris, has taken a controversial stance on smoking in the UK. Marlboro is known for its famous advertising campaigns in the 1950s, which took them from accounting for less than 1% of the market to become one of the four main brands. The company has now taken a different direction in advertising and recently launched a ‘Hold My Fire’ advert campaign, which urges smokers to switch to less harmful products such as vapes and e-cigarettes. With the declining smoking population in Britain, Philip Morris is likely making a sensible move.
Succeeding a company that sells its consumers a gradual decline in their own health must take a lot of strategy so it is unlikely that this decision was made without a lot of thought. Cigarette advertising has been illegal since 1965 and even branding has been removed in the last two years, so the marketing team – if one still exists – must have had a field day. The rebranding sees Philip Morris make a complete u-turn into a company that will save you from smoking-related ailments, now selling the alternative products, which, as the advert admits, still cause harm.
Many consumers may choose alternatives as a cheaper method of smoking. The cheaper cost of these products, however, is unlikely to harm Philip Morris’ profits. On a £11 packet of cigarettes, £9.46 is taxed by the government. The declining population of smokers and the increasing population of vapers makes it likely to be a profitable choice. Not only can Philip Morris now advertise its products, but can do so under the premise of having its consumers’ wellbeing at heart. Philip Morris is not deploying this tactic in any other countries. Eastern Europe dominates the cigarette consumption of Europe, yet Philip Morris is turning a blind eye to the wellbeing of their consumers there. Belarus has the highest population of smokers in Europe, which is not surprising when a packet of cigarettes averages at 99p. Philip Morris will not be helping these consumers, arguably the ones that need it the most, to stop smoking. Other than tax laws, there is nothing in place to stop members of the UK purchasing these cigarettes abroad and bringing them back home.
It’s hardly surprising that Cancer Research UK has attacked Philip Morris’ new advertising campaign. The charity has stressed that if Philip Morris wanted to prevent people from smoking, the company would stop manufacturing cigarettes altogether. Whilst a seemingly straightforward move, if Philip Morris was to stop trading, would it stop people smoking or would they simply pick up a new brand? Even with brand loyalty being incredibly strong amongst cigarette smokers, the physical addiction to nicotine may overpower these ties. After all, I doubt those people asking for cigarettes in a nightclub smoking area will decline your Camel for preference of a Lucky Strike. Overall, it seems Philip Morris is only looking to gain out of this decision. The amount of people smoking has declined, and the company are going to turn this into an opportunity to profit off alternatives. But, if less people smoke and we see a decline in smoking related illnesses, even partially due to their decision, then at least they’re taking a step in the right direction.