The world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company is deploying its vast resources against international efforts to reduce smoking. Internal documents uncovered by Reuters reveal details of the secret operation.
NEW DELHI/LAUSANNE, Switzerland – A group of cigarette company executives stood in the lobby of a drab convention center near New Delhi last November. They were waiting for credentials to enter the World Health Organization’s global tobacco treaty conference, one designed to curb smoking and combat the influence of the cigarette industry.
Treaty officials didn’t want them there. But still, among those lined up hoping to get in were executives from Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco Plc.
There was a big name missing from the group: Philip Morris International Inc. A Philip Morris representative later told Reuters its employees didn’t turn up because the company knew it wasn’t welcome.
In fact, executives from the largest publicly traded tobacco firm had flown in from around the world to New Delhi for the anti-tobacco meeting. Unknown to treaty organizers, they were staying at a hotel an hour from the convention center, working from an operations room there. Philip Morris International would soon be holding secret meetings with delegates from the government of Vietnam and other treaty members.