According to the World Health Organization, tobacco is the second major cause of preventable death in the world. Nearly five million lives per year are claimed by the tobacco industry, whose products results in premature death for half the people who use them. Among tobacco companies, Philip Morris is notorious. Now called Altria, it is the world's largest and most profitable cigarette corporation and maker of Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Parliament, Basic and many other brands of cigarettes. Philip Morris is also a leader in pushing smoking with young people around the world.
Philip Morris has consistently misled consumers about the dangers of its products. Documents uncovered in a lawsuit filed against the tobacco industry by the state of Minnesota showed that Philip Morris and other leading tobacco corporations knew very well of the dangers of tobacco products and the addictiveness of nicotine, yet they continued to deny these realities in public until the internal company documents were brought to light. To this day, Philip Morris deceives consumers about the harm of its products by offering light, mild and low-tar cigarettes that give consumers the illusion that these brands are "healthier" than traditional cigarettes.
Philip Morris has actively targeted the world's youth by researching smoking patterns and attitudes and targeting youth as potential customers. Marlboro cigarettes are the top brand for youth in the United States. Although the company says it doesn't want kids to smoke, it spends millions of dollars every day marketing and promoting cigarettes to youth. Overseas, it has even hired underage Marlboro girls to distribute free cigarettes to other children and sponsored concerts where cigarettes were handed out to minors.
As anti-tobacco campaigns and government regulations are slowing tobacco use in Western countries, Philip Morris has aggressively moved into developing country markets, where smoking and smoking-related deaths are on the rise. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, tobacco's killing fields are shifting to the developing world and Eastern Europe, where most of the world's smokers now live. Preliminary numbers released by the World Health Organization predict global deaths due to smoking-related illnesses will nearly double by 2020, with more than three-quarters of those deaths in the developing world.
Meanwhile, Philip Morris' profits continue to grow. In the third quarter of 2005 alone, Altria's net revenue was $25 billion, up from 2004 in large part due to the high performance of Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International.
Full story from Global Exchange site: "Most Wanted" Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2005