Philip Morris had previously agreed $1.8m deal - part of the Swiss Government and Parliament's objective to cover 50% of its Expo 2020 presence
Switzerland has pulled the plug on a potential 1.8 million Swiss franc ($1.8 million) sponsorship deal with Philip Morris International (PMI) for the country’s pavilion at Dubai’s Expo 2020.
The world’s biggest cigarette maker and owner of the Marlboro brand came under fire last week from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Swiss School of Public Health, which published an open letter calling the tobacco industry deceitful and misleading, and urging Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis - a former medical doctor - to reject the sponsorship money.
After continued criticism, the decision was taken on Tuesday in Switzerland to scrap the sponsorship deal, which was part of the Swiss Government and Parliament’s objective to cover 50% of its Expo 2020 presence via private sponsoring in a bid to save public money.
Cassis, who is said to have viewed the deal with “scepticism” from the outset, believed the tie-up with PMI could undermine the goal of the Swiss presence at the event, which is to convey a positive image of Switzerland.
He said: “Switzerland should be seen in Dubai as a country that is united and, at the same time, open and friendly.”
The decision is also in line with the Federal Council dispatch on May 17, which noted that “private sponsorship should not compromise the objectives of Switzerland’s communication abroad”.
Switzerland is home to PMI’s International Operations Centre and its largest research and development centre, the Cube, which employs 300 scientists.
A statement from PMI said: “We regret not only this decision but also the circumstance that the foreign minister was brought into this position by activists and organizations, especially since these actors say they want to end smoking but apparently don't have any interest in an open dialogue about grounded science, innovation and better alternatives for smokers.”
PMI has invested over $6 billion in heated tobacco products like iQOS to provide smokers with less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes.