Cigarette Maker Transitioning to Inhalers?

Phillip Morris has been in the news recently. The word is that they have purchased Vectura, a company that makes inhalers and nebulizers. So this begins the transition of a cigarette maker from cigarettes to inhalers and nebulizers.1-2

Phillip Morris is the maker of Marlboro brand cigarettes. According to their website, Marlboro is the "World's best-selling cigarette." Phillip Morris also makes various other cigarette brands, making them one of the world's most profitable cigarette manufacturers.1-2

Vectura makes inhalers and nebulizers. I was not familiar with Vectura before I began writing this post, but I now see they make a variety of devices called dry powdered inhalers. They also make metered-dose inhalers and nebulizers. Along with jet nebulizers, they also have a mesh nebulizer to compete with the Flyp and Innospire mesh nebulizers.2-4

I am not aware of what medicines go with these devices, although we can rest assured that they are asthma and COPD medicines.

What does this mean?

The company notes that this begins the shift from cigarettes to inhalers. I would imagine it is a way for them to stay in business should cigarettes go entirely out of style. Of course, they say this even though three-fourths of their profits continue to come from the sale of cigarettes.

Although I would imagine as time goes by, this will gradually change. If companies like Phillip Morris want to stay in business, they had better find other ways to make money than selling cigarettes. This may be the reason Phillip Morris decided to get into the inhaler and nebulizer market.

The shift may be well-intentioned, but it does not come without criticism. As one asthma expert said:1

"They've got a monopoly now of the disease lifecycle where they'll give you the disease in the first place, and then they'll treat it. What feels so uncomfortable about this deal is that it creates a perverse incentive whereby Philip Morris will sell you the tobacco and make a lot of money. Then, at the other end of that process, they'll sell you an inhaler for your COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], which they gave you, essentially."

Criticism understood

Phillip Morris got started as a company in 1847 and started selling cigarettes in 1854. They started making unfiltered Marlboro cigarettes in 1924 which was well before they knew the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes.5

Phillip Morris had a goal of marketing its product to women in the 1920s. When filtered Marlboro cigarettes came out, they were thought of as a feminine product. So, in the 1950s, Marlboro decided to try marketing its product for men. This gave birth to the infamous Marlboro man and this decision catapulted Marlboro into one of the top-selling cigarette brands.6

The Marlboro man was retired in 1999 which was in step with efforts to make smoking seem less cool for young kids. Still, the Marlboro man is one of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time. To this day, Marlboro remains one of the top-selling cigarette brands.5

According to the CDC, cigarette sales have declined significantly since the 1980s. This is mainly due to public efforts to make people aware of the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes. The United States remains the largest producer of cigarettes and there are four companies, with Phillip Morris being one, responsible for 97 percent of all cigarette sales.7

What do you think?

Still, with cigarette sales on the decline, Phillip Morris has decided to attempt a shift into the inhaler market. Is this a humble effort by the manufacturer to help people who their product may have harmed over the years?

Or is it a decision made by greed and deceit to profit off the people they caused to develop a disease we call COPD?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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