Devil's advocate

Tobacco major Philip Morris unveils its new death policy

Published: Wednesday 15 August 2001

It is a hellish accounting subsidising death for profit. Tobacco giant Philips Morris, as a messenger of death, has come out with the most outrageous revelation: deaths from smoking will help governments save healthcare costs by reducing the average life of a person by five years. In a report submitted to the Czech Republic government, the company claims that the country saved up to US $147.1 million in 1999, due to cigarette smoking. "Philips Morris is whispering in the ear of the Czech government: we can help you deal with those expensive old people, so why don't you go easy on controlling smoking," said John Connolly, public affairs manager of UK-based Action on Smoking and Health.

The report has been strongly criticised by anti-tobacco groups, who say that the report is an extermination tool for the newly retired. Matthew Myers, president of the US-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, feels that the analysis represents "bad economics and a callous disregard for life." The company, which manufactures 80 per cent of the cigarettes sold in the Czech Republic, had submitted the report to refute allegations that cigarettes were draining the country's resources. Because of such a belief, a tax increase on cigarettes was on the anvil in the country.

The report includes a ratio of the total benefits enjoyed and losses incurred by the country in one year due to cigarettes. The losses incurred in the form of healthcare cost of sick smokers were offset by corporate income taxes, custom duties and value-added taxes. Along with this, the government also saved money by not paying for healthcare, pensions and old age benefits. The Czech government has even condemned the report. "No government can accept a report like this," says Otakar Cerny, spokesperson for the Czech health ministry.

The report is the first direct acknowledgement by a tobacco company of the fact that smoking kills. It accepts without argument that smokers die prematurely.

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