Tobacco firm Philip Morris faces backlash over 'coronavirus publicity stunt' after it donates ventilators
While most of the world is under lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, many industries are struggling to make revenue. This also includes the tobacco industry which could finally be facing a reckoning. With over a million confirmed cases and over 50,000 deaths from COVID-19, the virus seems fierce. In the midst of the pandemic, scientists and other relevant industries are working hard to find a vaccine, even big tobacco companies have also joined pharmaceutical companies in the race to find it.
Due to the current pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised people to stop smoking and consuming tobacco. They stated that “Smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth.
“Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase the risk of serious illness. Conditions that increase oxygen needs or reduce the ability of the body to use it properly will put patients at higher risk of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia,” it continued.
This has caused a downward spiral for the tobacco industry. Consumers are avoiding smoking and the general use of tobacco. People are staying indoors and have mostly quarantined themselves, causing the sales to go down rapidly.
Desperate situations call for desperate measures. Big tobacco companies, Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco (BAT), are trying to produce a tobacco-based plant vaccine against the new coronavirus. PMI has also donated ventilators to the Greek government in the midst of the virus. Stavros Drakoularakos, PMI’s director of communications for Greece, tweeted the news and said he was “sky-high proud” of the move and described it as “proof of what sheer will and collaboration between all can achieve”.
Though it seems like the companies are trying to help the world by contributing to battle the pandemic, they have been called out for making it more like a publicity stunt. People have taken to Twitter to express their opinions about it, a user tweeted, “Wait.. what? tobacco industry is working on a vaccine for COVID19? stop selling tobacco that kills millions in the first place! reduction of NCDs due to smoking would free up healthcare budgets, research and workforce..”
“This is a shameful publicity stunt by Philip Morris International … Smoking makes people more vulnerable to coronavirus, and if they get it makes the symptoms worse, meaning they’re more likely to need ventilators” said another tweet.
“No need to concern yourself with the droplets of someone hacking out into the air as long as they're puffing away?" wrote another.
Another Twitter user wrote, “What a deceptive move by tobacco industry.This is a shameful publicity stunt by Philip Morris International..."
“This is just to promote tobacco, it looks like tailor made publicity,” accuses a Twitter user.
“Smokers were much more likely to progress to the severe stage of Covid-19 than non-smokers. Shame on Philip Morris for publicity stunts like these.”, says another tweet.
“That's a joke.ventilators from a company that makes a product that destroys your lungs.”, expresses a user.
Another Twitter user tweeted , “The company that purposely created one of the most addictive retail products on the planet, that has been responsible for millions of deaths is about to try to convince people to inject their new product directly into their bodies #BritishAmericanTobacco.