American tobacco company Philip Morris International offers £1bn for UK pharma firm Vectura

Cancer
Hand pulling out a cigarette

It has been announced today that Philip Morris International (PMI), the American tobacco company, and maker of Marlboro cigarettes, is buying Vectura, the British respiratory drugs company, for £1.04 billion.

Vectura has worked on treatments for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is the pharmaceutical company responsible for developing a pioneering inhaled treatment for COVID-19.

It’s ironic that a tobacco company wants to invest in the lung health industry when their products are the biggest preventable cause of cancer, including lung cancer. If PMI really wanted to help, they could stop aggressively promoting and selling their products altogether.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive

More funding needed for tobacco control

Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK, and worldwide. Harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke affect the entire body – not just our lungs. And smoking causes at least 15 different cancer types.

“More funding is desperately needed for tobacco control, including services to help people quit smoking, if we are to reach smokefree targets across the UK,” says Mitchell.

In 2019, the UK Government set out its ambitious plan for England to be smokefree by 2030, a target which England is already off track to meet.

The upcoming Tobacco Control Plan for England is a key opportunity for the UK Government to tackle smoking rates and health inequalities across the country. To maximise this opportunity, the UK Government must deliver an ambitious and comprehensive plan of action. However, without additional and sufficient funding, this plan will not be effective.

“As the maker of such a harmful product, the industry should be made to pay through a Smokefree 2030 Fund, without being given any influence in how the funds are spent,” added Mitchell. “The £1 billion PMI plan on spending to buy Vectura is more than triple what public health charities are asking the tobacco industry to pay up. The Smokefree 2030 Fund would prevent people from starting to smoke and support those who do, to stop.”

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