for Tobacco Control
Report on the Philip Morris Annual
Last Thursday (April 26th), Christine Kuck and Alivia Osborne of Taking
ACTION (Meridian High School, ID) and GPTC Coordinator Anna White attended
Philip Morris's annual shareholders' meeting in Richmond, VA, along with
several dozen members of Infact.
Every Philip Morris shareholders' meeting is a highly scripted pageant
at which its leaders do their utmost to project unruffled pride and confidence
in their company's brands -- while vehemently denying any responsibility
for the global tobacco epidemic projected to kill 10 million annually
by the year 2030. Our objective was to break through this facade and to
hold PM executives and the board of directors personally accountable for
the company's odious practices in the U.S. and around the world.
Please find below some meeting highlights, including: PM CEO Geoffrey
Bible's strong reaction to Albanian GPTC participant Sara Bogdani's story,
Alivia's testimony on "youth smoking prevention" programs, and
an encounter with tennis star Billie Jean King.
Not surprisingly, Bible did not take the opportunity to mention that
he quit smoking last year on the recommendation of his doctor!
REPORT ON PM ANNUAL SHAREHOLDERS MEETING
April 26, 2001
GEOFFREY BIBLE GETS DEFENSIVE
ABOUT SARA BOGDANI
Last year GPTC participant Roland Shuperka of For a Tobacco Free Albania
crossed paths with Sara Bogdani, a teenage "Marlboro girl" --
hired by PM to distribute cigarettes in Albania. Sara later saw "Making
a Killing" in school during the International Weeks of Resistance
to Tobacco Transnationals 2000 and decided to become a youth anti-tobacco
advocate. Both Tami Gold, the filmmaker behind the documentary "Making
a Killing," and an Infact board member mentioned 17-year-old Sara
Bogdani's story in their comments to Geoffrey Bible (who admitted to having
seen "parts" of the video, which he called "misleading"
and "inaccurate"). In his most defensive remarks of the morning,
Bible categorically denied that any underage youth are hired by the company
to distribute cigarettes. Note to Albanians: don't be surprised if PM
starts a highly-publicized "youth smoking prevention" program
in your country soon -- you've dealt the company a huge PR blow.
PM YOUTH SMOKING PREVENTION
PROGRAMS -- "ILLEGAL TO EVALUATE"
In addition to juice, pastries, and sandwiches made with Kraft cheese,
the main tent held an array of displays on all the "wonderful"
things PM is doing, including its efforts to convince youth that "smoking
isn't cool." Two entire displays were devoted to the company's "youth
smoking prevention" programs -- one for the U.S. and the other for
international. The international display highlighted programs in the following
countries: Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Japan,
Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal,
Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, and the
United Kingdom. Tomas Tesar, a PM employee from the Czech Republic, stood
nearby to field questions. At both booths PM employees boasted that their
youth programs benefit from broad community and government support, but
none could answer the simple question "How do you know that they
are effective?" GPTC participant Alivia Osborne of Taking ACTION
(Meridian High School, ID) was told that it would be "illegal"
for PM to evaluate its programs. And handing out free cigarettes to teenagers
OLIVIA OSBORNE TAKES ON
THE HEAD HONCHO
Geoffrey Bible took several opportunities to extol the multiple virtues
of the company's "youth smoking prevention" programs in the
U.S. and abroad, while dismissing a 13-year-old's comments about the Marlboro
Man's popularity among youth. Bible's words didn't sit well with 15-year-old
Olivia, who stepped up to the microphone and, without any prepared comments,
looked Bible in the eye through the camera and told him off! Her message?
Despite all the publicity, PM's "youth smoking prevention" simply
do not work -- very credible coming from a sophomore high school student.
It was a quintessential moment of speaking truth to power.
AN ENCOUNTER WITH BILLIE
Upon entering the PM "coffee hour" tent, we immediately recognized
Billie Jean King. For those of you who don't know, Billie Jean King is
an international female tennis legend, having won 71 singles titles, including
20 prestigious Wimbledon titles. She is a member of the International
Tennis Hall of Fame and the founder of the Women's Sports Foundation.
And since 1999, she has been a member of Philip Morris's Board of Directors.
A small swarm of people interested in autographs had collected around
her. We joined them, and when it came our turn, asked her to autograph
a Philip Morris coupon for free cigarettes -- which she did (before noticing
our "Proud to be giving the Marlboro Man the Boot stickers").
More than 140,000 women die from tobacco-related illnesses each year in
the U.S. alone. Lung cancer is the most fatal type of cancer among U.S.
women, killing an estimated 70,000 annually (compared to 41,000 breast
cancer deaths). Women, sports, and tobacco just don't mix. Shame on Billie
Jean King! See her autograph at http://www.essentialaction.org/tobacco/event/bjking.jpg
GPTC POSTERS = BAD PM PR
We brought posters representing various GPTC participants' views. One
poster was filled with photos of Marlboro ads that violate of Vietnam's
recent ban on direct and indirect tobacco advertising. The poster included
PATH Canada's demands: stop violating Vietnamese laws, stop promoting
Marlboro, stop using the Marlboro Man, and stop fooling and killing the
Vietnamese people. A second, complete with a recent L & M advertisement
from Georgia (courtesy Dr. Revaz Tataradz), focused on PM's use of U.S.
imagery to sell cigarettes. A third bore a question posed to PM board
members by Alphonse Issi of the Mouvement National des Consommateurs in
Cameroon: What is more important -- profits or public health? Taking ACTION
also made two signs, one for their club and one for their partner group
in Moldova, that said " [group] gives the Marlboro Man the boot."
Since we could not bring the posters into the shareholders' meeting, we
decided to take photos of them in the parking lot -- with PM's permanent
100+ foot high monument to the company's most popular cigarette brands
in the background. Apparently we were not very discreet. No sooner than
we had snapped the first photo we were surrounded by PM security guards
who threatened to take our camera away and confiscate the film. We got
one more photo before whisking our camera to safety!
PM WORDS VS. ACTIONS: STOCKHOLDER
In the U.S. there is a saying that "actions speak louder than words."
There were six shareholders proposals presented at the meeting, three
of which dealt directly with tobacco control: (1) Environmental Tobacco
Smoke Education, (2) Ensure that Tobacco Ads are Not Youth-Friendly, and
(5) Inform Consumers About the Risks of Smoking. The full text of each
is up at http://www.philipmorris.com/investors/proxy_statement/proxy_htm.htm.
The Board recommended that shareholders vote AGAINST each of the proposals.
The majority did. The 1st, 2nd, and 5th proposals were supported by, respectively,
6.6%, 7.8%, and 5.8% of shareholders, the proposal for banning youth-friendly
advertising being the most popular. PM wants very much to ease "societal
concerns" about the hazards of smoking, but apparently not the hazards
PM: "SAVING LIVES"
AROUND THE WORLD
As many tobacco control advocates have noted, PM spends more money advertising
its good deeds than on the good deeds itself. Recently, the company has
begun to advertise in the U.S. the good deeds it does abroad. Among the
television ads shown during the meeting was one about a PM-supported organization
that flies "Chernobyl" children from Belarus to the U.S. for
medical care. PM funds about 10-15 children a year. Of course, no mention
of PM's aggressive advertising in Belarus, where 55% of the male population
smokes. Another ad profiled PM employee Molly Walsh in a reenactment of
her helping to deliver 5 tons of PM-donated food to refugees in Kosovo.
WORLD WAR II & THE FREEDOM
Allusions to World War II were numerous throughout the meeting. A woman
from Virginia GASP, for instance, told of her dad receiving free cigarettes
during the war, only to become addicted to the habit. At one point Geoffrey
Bible took the opportunity to compare the freedoms people fought for during
World War II to those that the company now wants to uphold -- the freedom
to choose [to smoke & to do so in public places]. What he really meant
was "the freedom to make a profit off of addicting millions of people
around the world to a deadly product." As GPTC participant Alphonse
Issi of the Mouvement National des Consommateurs (Cameroon) noted in sample
questions for PM board members, cigarettes have killed more people than
all the world wars combined. Some choice!
PM ANNUAL REPORT 2001: INTERNATIONAL
TOBACCO SALES BOOMING
PM's annual report has a two-page overview of its international tobacco
sales, complete with staged shots of young, smiling, healthy people posing
with cigarettes in Spain, Mexico, and Japan. In particular, the report
sites a 7.3% volume growth in Asia, fueled by "Marlboro" in
Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Thailand and Japan -- and double-digit volume
growth in Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Mexico. In the section "Addressing
Societal Concerns," the company mentions the proposed Framework Convention
on Tobacco Control, support for governments' efforts to establish minimum
age laws and prohibit sales to minor, and PM's 130 youth smoking prevention
programs in over 70 countries.
BOYCOTT PM NON-TOBACCO BRANDS
In many countries around the world, consumer boycotts have been successful
in pressuring those in power to stop various forms of oppression. During
the meeting, Geoffrey Bible boasted that the company has 91 "$100
million" brands, including 15 "mega" brands with annual
earnings over $1 billion. Non-smokers who are opposed to tobacco companys'
aggressive promotion of their carcinogenic products around the world can
register discontent with the companies by boycotting their non-tobacco
products. A recent Harris Interactive corporate reputation survey found
that 16% of respondents familiar with Philip Morris have boycotted its
products over the past year. Infact has launched an international boycott
of PM's Kraft brand <http://www.infact.org>. But PM also owns Miller
Beer, Nabisco, Post, Balance Bars, Altoids, Lifesavers, Planters peanuts,
Oscar Meyers, Boca Burgers, Maxwell Coffee, Jell-O, and Kool-Aid, among
many others. There is a full list of PM's brands in the company's annual
report. Contact us if you want a copy of it. Some partnerships might want
to investigate which non-tobacco PM brands are sold in their respective
communities and then do a joint campaign to alert their patients, colleagues,
neighbors, and/or fellow students to locally sold PM-owned brands -- and
how company uses them to leverage political power.
LETTING PM PARTICIPATE IN
FCTC NEGOTATIONS IS LIKE...
...inviting the Ku Klux Klan* to draft civil rights legislation -- so
said an African-American Infact board member from California. In his testimony
he focused on the dozens of IWR2001 events, many organized by GPTC participants,
that have taken place around the world in the past month leading up to
the FCTC negotiations in Geneva this week. Again, thanks to all of you
who collected petition signatures and planned events.
*The Ku Klux Klan is a racist group based in the U.S. with a long history
of violence against non-whites.
WANT MORE INFORMATION?
In addition to PM product samplers, Kraft grocery cart magnets and "Oreo
Man" toys, we picked up a stack of PM brochures, booklets, and reports.
If you would like copies of any of them, let us know. They include:
- Philip Morris Companies Inc. 2000 Annual Report
- Philip Morris International Youth Smoking Prevention
- Philip Morris USA Youth Smoking Prevention -- Strengthening Resolve,
- PM contributions: AIDS, Culture, Domestic Violence, Environment, Hunger,
PM Corporate Contribution Guidelines
- Kraft Foods Domestic Violence Grant Program
- Working to make a difference. The people of Philip Morris
- Make Your Voice Heard! -- folder of information re: how shareholders
can lobby for a "tough but reasonable" framework giving the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate cigarettes.
Also mentions FCTC.
- Past, Present and Future: Diversity in Action at The Philip Morris
Family of Companies
- Options -- "Accomodation: A Reasonable Approach to Public-Place
- Philip Morris Companies Inc. 2001 Fact Book
- Let's Talk. A family guide to making responsible choices (Miller Brewing
- 2001 Annual Stockholders Meeting Survey re: "accomodating non-smokers"
at future meetings
Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control
P.O. Box 19405 ~ Washington,
Tel: +1 202-387-8030 ~ Fax: +1 202-234-5176