Philip Morris Int'l responds to Swiss Pavilion sponsorship criticism

Swiss Government was criticised last week for allowing maker of Marlboro cigarettes to sponsor Expo 2020 Dubai's Belle Vues

Expo 2020 Dubai's Swiss pavilion is named Belle Vues.
Expo 2020 Dubai
Expo 2020 Dubai's Swiss pavilion is named Belle Vues.

Philip Morris International (PMI), the American tobacco multinational globally known as the maker of the Marlboro cigarette brand, has responded to criticism over its $1.8m (AED6.6m) sponsorship deal led by Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis for Expo 2020 Dubai’s Switzerland Pavilion, Belle Vues.

Swiss School of Public Health published an open letter last week stating the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer sponsoring the Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai was “unacceptable”, adding in its German-language statement that the deal for the next World Expo – which is being held under the theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ – underlined Switzerland’s “backwardness in tobacco legislation”.

Its letter reportedly added: “[The tobacco] industry has deceived the public for decades, spread lies about the effects of smoking and passive smoking, and with massive investments misled the population into believing that science was not unified on these questions.”

In an emailed statement, PMI told Construction Week’s sister title Arabian Business that it was committed to replacing cigarettes with alternatives, and that it did not intend to expose non-smokers in Dubai to tobacco-related products.

The Arabian Business report cited PMI as saying: “PMI is committed to replacing cigarettes with less-harmful alternatives and offering a better choice for the world’s one billion adult smokers, who don’t quit cigarettes, as soon as possible. This will benefit smokers, the people who care for them, and overall public health.

“We stand ready to talk to and work with any organisation that truly wants to help the world’s one billion smokers quit cigarettes. We would hope that those who share our vision of a smoke-free world would support rather than criticise our efforts.”

Additionally, the report added that the Embassy of Switzerland in Abu Dhabi said it was “aware that this partnership would raise certain questions and issues”.

However, the embassy added that the deal was part of the Swiss Government and Parliament’s goal to cover 50% of its Expo 2020 Dubai presence through private sponsorships to save taxpayer money.

The Embassy added that Cassis would analyse all sponsorship partners, “particularly Philip Morris”, and explore various options.

Switzerland’s planned sponsorship agreement will restrict the visibility of PMI’s products to an area accessible exclusively for adults aged over 21, with the company to solely promote a product developed as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, Arabian Business’s report added.

“Clearly, all measures will be taken on site and in all communications concerning the Swiss pavilion to ensure that absolutely no impression is given that the Swiss Confederation is promoting the consumption of tobacco products,” the embassy reportedly said.

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