Senators Durbin, Lautenberg, Harkin Call Tobacco CEO Comments: ‘Reckless and Scientifically Inaccurate’

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–May 12, 2011.  U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) today set the record straight on the addictive nature of cigarettes after hearing a statement by the CEO of Philip Morris International, Louis Camilleri, claiming that while smoking cigarettes is addictive, “it is not that hard to quit.” In reality, a 2010 Surgeon General’s report indicates that in recent years tobacco companies have altered cigarettes to make them more addictive.

“As the CEO of the world’s largest multinational tobacco company, you must know how reckless and scientifically inaccurate that assertion is,” the Senators wrote. “It is reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s history of denying and downplaying the addictiveness and health risks of tobacco products.”

Durbin, Lautenberg and Harkin pointed out that Camilleri’s statement comes at a time when Philip Morris International is aggressively targeting new markets in developing countries and marketing products, such as flavored and dissolvable tobacco products, that appeal to young people.

Citing internal company memos and a wealth of experts over the last three decades that have determined the addictive nature of cigarettes, the Senators wrote: “Rather than deny the decades of empirical evidence, including that within your own company, demonstrating the powerfully addictive nature of nicotine, we urge you to be honest about the addictiveness and health consequences of your products and to support efforts to protect the public’s health through effective regulation of tobacco products.”

[Text of the letter is below]

May 12, 2011

Louis C. Camilleri, Chief Executive Officer

Philip Morris International

120 Park Ave

New York, New York 10017

Dear Mr. Camilleri:

Yesterday at Philip Morris International’s annual shareholder meeting in New York City, you stated that while smoking cigarettes is addictive, “it is not that hard to quit.” As the CEO of the world’s largest multinational tobacco company, you must know how reckless and scientifically inaccurate that assertion is. It is reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s history of denying and downplaying the addictiveness and health risks of tobacco products, such as at the 1994 congressional hearing with major tobacco industry executives, all of whom stated under oath that they believe “nicotine is not addictive.”

Your statement was especially disturbing given the authoritative body of scientific data gathered over decades by reputable institutions such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Public Health Service, proving that nicotine is highly addictive and that it is difficult to quit smoking. This reality is evidenced by the fact that more than 70 percent of the 46 million smokers in the U.S. report that they want to quit and about 45 percent report that they try to quit each year. In 1988, the U.S. Surgeon General first concluded that tobacco was a serious addiction similar to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. In fact the prevalence of people diagnosed as dependent on nicotine is higher than that for any other substance abuse disorder.

Even your company’s internal documents demonstrate that nicotine is extremely addictive. A 1982 memo by a Philip Morris researcher stated, “Nicotine is a potent pharmacological agent. Every toxicologist, physiologist, medical doctor, and most chemists know that. It’s not a secret.” A 1992 memo by a director states, “Different people smoke cigarettes for different reasons. But the primary reason is to deliver nicotine into their bodies…Similar organic chemicals include nicotine, quinine, cocaine, atropine, morphine.”

Your statement comes as Philip Morris International is aggressively targeting new markets in developing countries and marketing products, such as flavored and dissolvable tobacco products, that appeal to young people. New research in the 2010 Surgeon General’s report indicates that in recent years tobacco companies have altered cigarettes to make them more addictive.

Nicotine addiction is the fundamental reason people continue to use tobacco products, which claim 443,000 American lives and 5 million lives around the world every year. Rather than deny the decades of empirical evidence, including that within your own company, demonstrating the powerfully addictive nature of nicotine, we urge you to be honest about the addictiveness and health consequences of your products and to support efforts to protect the public’s health through effective regulation of tobacco products.

Sincerely,

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Source: durbin.senate.gov