The Lung Health Foundation denounces Philip Morris International’s (PMI) acquisition of Vectura and stands with the international respiratory health community in opposing this sale. We are incredibly concerned about the implications of this decision on the healthcare community, the public, and lung disease patients.
This move is troublesome and gives way to a variety of ethical challenges. For one, PMI will now profit even further from addicting Canadians on their tobacco products. PMI has profited immensely from cigarette sales globally and has largely evaded taking responsibility for the burdensome costs of smoking on societies. In Canada, tobacco use is responsible for over 45,000 deaths annually and costs approximately $16.2 billion in indirect and direct costs.[i]
Now, PMI will be able to further profit from its tobacco sales by selling respiratory inhalers used to treat lung diseases including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which are oftentimes a result of tobacco use.
In addition, there now exists the potential for the tobacco industry to exert greater influence on health policy and research. The tobacco industry has a problematic history of research manipulation including distorting evidence to deny the correlation of secondhand smoke and lung diseases. Researchers who previously received support from Vectura may be prohibited from publishing in certain journals and participating in health conferences given the conflict of interest concerns. The acquisition may also provide an opportunity for PMI to insert itself in respiratory health discussions despite their vested interest in the continued sale of tobacco products.
Lastly, the takeover not only puts physicians in an uncomfortable position but also poses a conflict for patients who are against supporting the very industry responsible for their disease. This acquisition compromises the trust of both patients and the general public on the effectiveness and intention of medical therapies and companies.
The Lung Health Foundation’s policy on engaging with the tobacco industry remains stringent and we will continue to implement the following action items:
- LHF will not permit the involvement of the tobacco industry, or a company owned by the tobacco industry, in any of our activities including conferences, meetings, or other sponsorship opportunities.
- LHF will not promote, reference, or fund research papers sponsored by the tobacco industry or a company owned by the tobacco industry.
- LHF will continue to raise awareness about the tobacco industry’s involvement in healthcare and work with the respiratory health community to actively oppose any future interferences.
[i] Conference Board of Canada (2017). The Costs of Tobacco Use in Canada, 2012. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/documents/services/publications/healthy-living/costs-tobacco-use-canada-2012/Costs-of-Tobacco-Use-in-Canada-2012-eng.pdf