Philip Morris quantifies savings to Czech Republic from early deaths of smokers

המידע באדיבות מדיקונטקסט
Last Updated: 2001-07-17 13:37:56 EDT (Reuters Health)

By Brad Dorfman

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A report commissioned by Philip Morris Cos. Inc. saying that the early deaths of smokers saved the Czech government money in healthcare, pensions and housing for the elderly has sparked a new burst of outrage from tobacco industry opponents.

"I think it's pretty egregious," Richard Daynard, a Northeastern University law professor and chairman of the Tobacco Products Liability Project, said Monday. "You don't see other companies doing it. This is not the normal way we think about the lives of citizens, that the government benefits when they die off prematurely."

The report, produced by consulting firm Arthur D. Little International, was released in the Czech Republic several weeks ago, a spokesman for Philip Morris said.

The study "was part of an ongoing debate about the economics of cigarette excise tax policy in the Czech Republic," Philip Morris International said in a statement issued late on Monday. "Philip Morris deeply regrets any impression from this study that the premature death of smokers represents a benefit to society."

Among the findings reported is that the premature deaths of smokers saved the Czech government between 943 and 1.19 billion crowns ($24 million to $30.3 million) on health care, pensions and housing for the elderly in 1999, the spokesman confirmed.

Philip Morris, the world's largest cigarette maker, commissioned the report to gather economic data in the debate over how much healthcare for smokers costs the country, spokesman Remi Calvet said.

"There's actually no intention by Philip Morris to enter the debate on tobacco and health," he said.

Tobacco companies have used similar arguments in the past. In US court cases in the mid-1990s, the industry argued against lawsuits where states sought reimbursement for the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses.

"Even if it were true that smokers dying young would save money for the economy, it's a real scary logic on which to base policy," said Patti Lynn, associate campaign director for corporate watchdog group Infact, which has battled tobacco companies over their marketing practices.

Anti-smoking forces question the data in the Czech survey. Daynard noted that the report also discusses how much tobacco sales contribute to the economy, but said the report assumes that if these sales ceased, smokers would not spend the money on other goods.

In late June, the industry tried to get a hand up in a battle over tobacco advertising in the Czech Republic by proposing its own voluntary code. Pressure is building on the Czechs to amend their laws to conform to European Union norms ahead of possible membership in 2004.

Last year the Czech government proposed, but then withdrew, a law that would have tightened existing rules. The current law allows cigarette advertising on the radio at night; advertising in cinemas, newspapers and magazines; and the prominent display of company logos on billboards and street cars.

Tobacco companies such as market leader Philip Morris have offered to ban radio and billboard advertising, stop sponsorship of events, and exclude all print advertising where more than one third of the readership is under 18. Philip Morris has about an 80% share of the Czech market.

Activists were not sure if Philip Morris would suffer any backlash from the Czech report.

"The interesting thing about the tobacco industry is, their reputation is already so bloody, it takes a lot for people to be shocked," Daynard said.

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