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Feature Medicine and the Media

Big tobacco’s new year’s resolution to quit smoking

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 05 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k79
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

A tobacco company claims it wants to stop selling cigarettes in the UK—and is developing other ways to keep people taking nicotine. Nigel Hawkes reports

The tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) wants to “give up cigarettes” in the UK, it claimed in full page advertisements in three newspapers on 2 January. “Every year, many smokers give them up,” the ad said. “Now it’s our turn.”

So what’s stopping it? The company sells 800 billion cigarettes a year to 150 million smokers in 180 countries. Quitting production would remove 15% of the world’s cigarettes. But when 123 health groups wrote an open letter to PMI last year urging it to stop the production, marketing, and sale of cigarettes,1 the company’s chief, André Calantzopoulos, said that this would be pointless: other companies would immediately fill the gap.

Instead, PMI wants to make a …

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