Jacek Olczak, Chief Executive Officer of Philip Morris
International Inc. (PMI) (NYSE: PM), today delivered remarks at the
2021 Concordia Annual Summit. Olczak discussed the need to draw on
the lessons learned from the global response to COVID-19 and create
transparent frameworks and partnerships that harness innovation to
build a better world. He explained the importance of focusing on
peer-reviewed science to tackle major global issues—including
environmental pressure, social inequality, health pandemic, and
smoking. Olczak described how the exclusionary practices of many
anti-tobacco organizations and NGOs are making it harder for PMI to
deliver tobacco harm reduction solutions by introducing
scientifically substantiated alternatives as the company moves away
from making and selling cigarettes.
The Concordia Annual Summit, which coincides with the United
Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting, convenes the world’s most
prominent business, government, and nonprofit leaders to foster
dialogue and enable effective partnerships for positive social
Excerpts of Jacek Olczak’s speech follow.
“We have come together today to talk about resilience and
recovery. To share our insights and ideas for how to build a world
that is better for all.
“Two things are certain: We cannot build the future we desire by
relying on the same blueprints we used to construct our recent
past. And returning to a version of yesterday’s ‘normal’ is
unthinkable. It would be a dereliction of duty and an unforgivable
waste of the opportunity before us to evolve and grow as a
“With COVID-19, we have been handed a terrible burden … and a
gift. An opportunity to create our world anew, drawing on the
lessons we have learned during 18 months of lockdowns and fear and
“A lesson that has been especially resonant for me is just how
irrational it is to attempt to address a massive global
challenge—such as the current pandemic—from behind closed doors and
without input from all concerned parties. Moreover, our recent
experiences have shown me how counterproductive it is to prioritize
certain people and perspectives over all others to the point of
obscuring truths and blocking innovative and more immediate
“We have an opportunity to build a better world, but we cannot
do that until we open the doors to new partnerships and new
frameworks. To initiate change, we need to open our minds and be
willing to welcome all pertinent parties and perspectives to the
table. To recover, rebuild, and repair our world, we must act in
unison as a global community rather than be led by provincial
“As the CEO of Philip Morris International, I have witnessed how
the ‘old normal’ ways of working are heaving roadblocks along the
path to progress.
“The situation we face as a company is relatively simple:
Globally, more than 1 billion people continue to smoke cigarettes.
We can all agree that this is a bad thing—for those individuals and
for the public health. Regulatory measures to reduce that number
have had limited effect, but not nearly enough to solve the
problem. The answers for the future lie squarely in a fierce
commitment to science and technological innovation.
“Over the past decade, we have had an enormous scientific and
technological breakthrough: Companies such as mine have developed
smoke-free products that eliminate combustion—products such as
e-cigarettes and heated tobacco systems. While not risk-free, these
products have been scientifically substantiated to be a much better
alternative to continued smoking.
“That’s great news, isn’t it? Adults who continue to smoke now
have better alternatives to cigarettes. Who could oppose them
switching to these better options?
“You would be surprised.
“Rather than celebrate what by any objective measure is a
positive public health breakthrough, some special interest groups
are prioritizing ideology, politics, and a desire for retribution
over progress. Fixated on the fantasy of an entirely tobacco-free
world, they have lost sight of the opportunity that exists today,
refusing to accept the science behind these alternatives and
rejecting harm reduction as a solution for better.
“We need only look at Japan to see a market in which the
introduction of heated tobacco products directly correlates to an
accelerated decline in cigarette use.
“Equally troubling, authorities worldwide are being influenced
by lavishly funded special interest groups and NGOs afraid to lose
the funding they gain from continuing to fight a last-century
battle. Constructs put in place through the WHO’s Framework
Convention on Tobacco Control are willfully being misinterpreted.
For example, Article 5.3 of the Convention, intended to limit
industry influence—something we respect and support—is wielded to
censor and ostracize critics, silence reasoned voices, and stymie
“The closed doors, secrecy, and intrigue that marked criticism
of the tobacco industry 30 years ago are now, ironically, standard
practice for many anti-tobacco organizations and NGOs.
Unfortunately, their tactics are making it harder for my company to
achieve our goal of no longer making or selling cigarettes. As we
expand our business for the long term outside of tobacco and
nicotine and invest in pharma, we are faced with the same illogical
“The misplaced fear and resistance to change must be
“We need to remove politics and ideological principles that are
impeding progress—and not only with regard to tobacco harm
reduction. The harms of exclusionary policies and counterproductive
measures apply with similar force to climate change, pandemic
mitigation, institutionalized inequity, and other pressing
“Intentionally or not, the ‘old guard’ has created a world that
is failing the majority. They have championed policies that
prioritize the status quo rather than embracing intelligent
“It is time for new voices. It is time for more inclusive and
“Science—when vetted through peer review—is science. Facts are
facts. The notion that a scientific finding must be flawed because
it comes from a particular company or industry is absurd—especially
when it has been confirmed by respected governments, scientists,
and other third parties. We need to remove the stigma that
scientific innovation funded by a tobacco company cannot possibly
be reliable or in the public interest. Equally essential, we need
to stop excluding men and women who smoke from the conversation.
These are the people who have the most to gain from reduced-risk
alternatives. They must be allowed a voice.
“We can continue to allow these groups to prescribe who gets to
be engaged in solving problems—even when they have precious little
to show for their decades of work. Or we can instead work
together—as smartly and as quickly as possible—to tackle the very
real issues that threaten us all.
“It is human nature to stick with what we know. Thanks to the
great pause of COVID-19, we have had time to reflect on where that
tendency has gotten us. What we need now is not more of the same
but fresh thinking. We need to break out of our echo chambers and
monolithic committees and conferences so that innovative thinking
and science can get through. Healthy debate requires differences
and dissent. I would urge those of you gathered here today to ask
how we can create a better tomorrow. Will it be by doubling down on
dogma and division, or will it be by embracing collaboration,
diversity, and inclusivity? The challenges before us are mighty.
The consequences of our failing to meet them are great.
“I am not here to ratchet up tensions. Quite the opposite. I am
here to ask you to help put a stop to outdated, exclusionary
approaches that are preventing us from moving forward as a society.
And I am asking you to put the public health over ideology and
ancient grudges. If we have learned one thing this past year and a
half, it is that science, innovation, and inclusion must be
permitted to prevail.
“I stand before you four months into my role as CEO of PMI, a
company undergoing a profound transformation.
We are passionate in our commitment to unsmoke the world and
create a better future—a future free of cigarettes. Now, we need
you—and all those in positions of influence—to join us in unsmoking
minds so we can rebuild a better future for all, faster.”
A recording of the speech will be available to view at
Philip Morris International: Delivering a Smoke-Free
Philip Morris International (PMI) is leading a transformation in
the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately
replace cigarettes with smoke-free products to the benefit of
adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, society, the company,
its shareholders and its other stakeholders. PMI is a leading
international tobacco company engaged in the manufacture and sale
of cigarettes, as well as smoke-free products, associated
electronic devices and accessories, and other nicotine-containing
products in markets outside the U.S. In addition, PMI ships
versions of its IQOS Platform 1 device and consumables to Altria
Group, Inc. for sale under license in the U.S., where these
products have received marketing authorizations from the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) under the premarket tobacco product
application (PMTA) pathway; the FDA has also authorized the
marketing of a version of IQOS and its consumables as a Modified
Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP), finding that an exposure modification
order for these products is appropriate to promote the public
health. PMI is building a future on a new category of smoke-free
products that, while not risk-free, are a much better choice than
continuing to smoke. Through multidisciplinary capabilities in
product development, state-of-the-art facilities and scientific
substantiation, PMI aims to ensure that its smoke-free products
meet adult consumer preferences and rigorous regulatory
requirements. PMI’s smoke-free product portfolio includes
heat-not-burn and nicotine-containing vapor products. As of June
30, 2021, PMI’s smoke-free products are available for sale in 67
markets in key cities or nationwide, and PMI estimates that
approximately 14.7 million adults around the world have already
switched to IQOS and stopped smoking. For more information, please
visit www.pmi.com and www.pmiscience.com.
version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210921006085/en/
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