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Cigarettes could disappear in the United Kingdom, but will the dangers of tobacco linger?

The chief executive of Philip Morris International said it would stop selling traditional cigarettes in Britain in the next 10 years

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Cartons of Marlboro cigarettes in Burlington, N.C.

This June 14, 2018, file photo shows cartons of Marlboro cigarettes on the shelves at JR outlet in Burlington, N.C. Philip Morris International is moving its corporate headquarters from New York to Connecticut. The company said Tuesday, June 22, 2021, the relocation will bring about 200 new jobs to Connecticut.

Gerry Broome, Associated Press

The unhealthy habit of smoking cigarettes will soon burn out, at least in the United Kingdom, Philip Morris International’s top administrator told The Daily Mail. But all the dangers of tobacco don’t appear to be going away.

Philip Morris International chief executive Jacek Olczak said in an interview with The Mail on Sunday that the parent company of Marlboro cigarettes sold outside the United States would stop selling cigarettes in the U.K. in the next 10 years.

  • “I want to allow this company to leave smoking behind,” Olczak told The Mail. “I think in the U.K., 10 years from now maximum, you can completely solve the problem of smoking.”
  • The executive said smokers should first quit smoking as Marlboros stop being sold in the Britain, “but if they don’t, the second best choice is to let them switch to the better alternatives.”

Philip Morris is in the smokeless tobacco business, too

Olczak also called on the British government to outlaw cigarettes, and PMI is attempting to change its brand, synonymous with smoking products, into a “health care and wellness company,” according to The Guardian.

But these efforts have been criticized by anti-smokers as disingenuous, as Philip Morris International continues to sell and promote smokeless tobacco products.

  • The Guardian reported that PMI has “launched a (1 billion pound) takeover bid for Vectura, a British pharmacy company that makes asthma inhalers” and that anti-smoking organizations “argue tobacco companies are positioning themselves as part of the solution to a smoke-free world, while continuing to aggressively sell and promote lethal cigarettes.”
  • “We are building PMI’s future on smoke-free products that — while not risk-free — are a far better choice than cigarette smoking,” Philip Morris International says on its website. “Indeed, our vision — shared by all at PMI — is that these products will one day replace cigarettes.”

The World Health Organization says that “smokeless tobacco is highly addictive and damaging to health” and can increase the risk of cancer.

  • “All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco,” the WHO says on its website.

Cigarettes kill millions of people every year

It’s estimated that 7 million people globally die every year because of tobacco use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency reports that smokers live 10 less years than those who don’t smoke.

  • In the United States, more than 480,000 people die annually as a result of cigarette smoking, with upward of 41,000 of that number from secondhand smoke, the CDC reports.
  • Medical care for adult smokers in the U.S. is a $225 billion a year industry, according to the CDC.