‘What’s next, Marlboro-branded coffins?’ Tobacco giant Philip Morris International is branded ‘twisted’ for selling life insurance with discounts for people who use its own smokeless gadgets
- Philip Morris International has set up its own life insurance company, reviti
- Campaigners say it is a ‘twisted’ business model for the firm to use
- They accuse it of trying to make money by selling insurance to tobacco addicts
One of the world’s biggest tobacco companies has come under fire for moving into the life insurance business.
Philip Morris International, which produces more than 800billion cigarettes every year, has been accused of being ‘twisted’ for offering life insurance as well.
One campaigner said the multi-billion dollar company is ‘looking to profit any way it can from addicted customers’.
The firm has set up a new company called reviti, which offers life insurance and comes with discounts for people who quit smoking.
Ex-smokers who switch to PMI’s own IQOS brand of heated tobacco devices can get a quarter off their premium, 10 times the discount offered to those using other e-cigarettes.
Philip Morris International produces more than 800billion cigarettes a year and is worth almost $130billion (£100bn) (stock image)
reviti life insurance was launched last week by the tobacco company which makes Marlboro cigarettes, among other brands – it was officially set up in July last year.
The company’s website says it wants to encourage people to live healthier lives and offers discounts to people who kick bad habits.
It will offer a 25 per cent life insurance discount to smokers who switch to Philip Morris’s own IQOS brand of heated tobacco e-cigarette for three months or more.
But this discount only stretches to 2.5 per cent if smokers switch to any other type of electronic cigarette or vaping device.
People who quit smoking altogether for a year will get their premium for half-price.
‘It doesn’t get more twisted than a tobacco company hooking people on its deadly products, then turning around and trying to sell them life insurance,’ said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a US-based charity.
‘Philip Morris is looking to profit any way it can from its addicted customers.
‘Where will Philip Morris diversify next – perhaps into funeral homes, with Marlboro-branded coffins?’
WHEN DID PEOPLE REALISE SMOKING CAUSES LUNG CANCER?
Lung cancer was once a rare disease and considered peculiar by doctors but a surge in the popularity of cigarettes triggered an ‘epidemic’ of it.
Cigarettes started to become mass produced and popular towards the end of the 1800s, with lung cancer cases appearing increasingly often years later.
One scientist in 1898 suggested tobacco dust, rather than smoke, could be triggering tumours – but his theory was corrected in 1912 when another said the smoke was to blame. But this wasn’t proven or widely believed.
By the 1920s lung cancers were starting to become common and doctors tended to blame smoking, dust from tarred roads, industrial air pollution, and exposure to poisonous gas during World War I.
But by the 1940s and 50s experts were beginning to understand it was smoking cigarettes which was driving up cancer rates.
A poll in the US in 1954 found about 41 per cent of the public believed in the link.
By the mid-50s tobacco companies knew their cigarettes were making people terminally ill but are believed to have tried to quash evidence in a bid to keep sales high.
Scientific studies proving the strong link began to surface in that decade and the evidence soon became irrefutable.
Cigarette consumption reached its peak in the US in 1982, when 630billion were smoked in a year, before it began to fall.
There are now 1.1billion smokers around the world – around one in seven people – and more than seven million people die every year as a result of the habit.
Tobacco companies are believed to make $10,000 profit for every smoker who dies.
Source: Tobacco Control and World Health Organization
PMI is one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world and is worth almost $130billion (£100bn).
It has 46 factories around the world with machines which can produce 20,000 cigarettes every minute.
The firm is now moving out of the cigarette industry, mainly through its heated tobacco brand, IQOS, which it claims is a safer alternative to smoking.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said the company is using reviti as a means of keeping the cash coming in when people try to quit.
‘Philip Morris International have no interest in helping people save money on life insurance,’ Dr Woods told MailOnline.
‘The clearly biased discount policy for smokers who use PMI products shows this is just another blatant tactic to push their own tobacco products.
‘If PMI really want to encourage people to stop smoking, the solution is simple. They need to agree to a “polluter pays levy” which can be used to fund cash-strapped stop-smoking services.’
Mr Myers added that PMI, which says on its website homepage it is ‘designing a smoke-free future’, is using new products to create a smokescreen.
He said: ‘Philip Morris claims that they’re “incentivizing” smokers to quit by offering life insurance discounts for smokers who switch to their other tobacco products or quit completely. But there’s little evidence to back up their claims.
‘Their alternative products have not been proven effective at helping smokers quit, they carry their own health risks and they are being marketed in ways that appeal to kids.
‘In addition, Philip Morris’ sham incentives for smokers to quit are drowned out by the huge sums the company spends to market cigarettes and keep smokers from quitting.’
Smoking has been known to cause cancer for at least 70 years and smokers live, on average, lives 10 years shorter than non-smokers.
A marketing analyst told The Times last week the company appears to be trying to future-proof itself against smoking rates falling.
A reviti spokesperson said: ‘The purpose of reviti is to offer people life insurance cover and to encourage them to make positive changes that we believe will help them improve their lifestyle.
‘The greatest reward our customers can receive is for quitting tobacco and nicotine use altogether.’
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