Tobacco companies reject WHO accusations

Philip Morris says the report does not reflect the current approach of the tobacco industry Keystone

Some of the world's leading tobacco companies have rejected accusations that they sought to undermine the World Health Organisation's anti-smoking campaign.

This content was published on August 2, 2000 minutes

The vice-president of Philip Morris's European Union operations, David Davies, told swissinfo that the WHO's accusations did not stand up to scrutiny.

"We do not believe that any of the documents included in the report substantiate a conclusion that we obstructed the WHO's health message about tobacco or its tobacco control initiatives."

Davies admitted that Philip Morris had been aggressive in defending its interests in the past, but he said the company's attitude had since changed. "In the past, we probably... were too aggressive. Today we are seeking a more constructive approach."

Another cigarette multinational, British American Tobacco, was less conciliatory. The company denied the accusations, and attacked the WHO for refusing to engage in "meaningful" dialogue.

"Despite repeated requests to the WHO for dialogue and offers to participate in the process of policy formation... we have not been consulted in a meaningful way," said a spokesman.

On the subject of a secret gathering among Philip Morris executives in Boca Raton, Florida, in 1988, the company admitted the meeting had taken place, but denied its purpose was to undermine the WHO.

"The WHO was one of several subjects discussed at the meeting," said Davies. "We sought to find ways to make our views known, to learn about what the WHO was examining in relation to matters that affected our business. And how we could disseminate the views that we held on the issues where we differed from them."

swissinfo with agencies

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