Controversial Philip Morris report

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Smoking represents a great economic benefit for the state, according to a report commissioned by Philip Morris in the Czech Republic and published last month. The benefits are numerous, the report states. There is the revenue from taxes on the sale of tobacco and since smokers die younger, the state saves on old age pensions - a statement that has aroused protests not only within the Czech Republic, but also abroad. Olga Szantova has been following the issue.

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Doctors and health care activists are outraged by that part of the report which states that the Czech Republic saved some 147 million US dollars in 1997 through the death of smokers, who did not live to take their pensions. Smoking cessation expert, Dr. Eva Kralikova says:

"One of the most important benefits of the reduced costs is, according to this study, due to the early mortality of smokers. So, this is one ethical point that maybe it could be a recommendation to the government to kill all people on the day of their retirement, because then their life is expensive."

But not only is this economic consideration immoral, says Dr.Kralikova, it is also incorrect:

"Looking at just the economic cost, according to a publication of the World Bank from the year 1999, the shorter life of a smoker is more expensive, due to health care costs than the longer life of a non-smoker."

The controversial report was prepared for Philip Morris, Czech Republic. I asked the company's Director of Corporate Affairs, Ales Janku why they had commissioned it.

"We commissioned the study and it was not about health policy. It was a part of an on-going debate about the economics of cigarette excise policy in the Czech Republic, and I must say that Philip Morris deeply regrets any impression from this study that the premature death of smokers represents a benefit to society."

Radio Prague: And after all this controversy, has the report been used in any negotiations?

Ales Janku: I don't know what negotiations you have in mind.

RP: Well, the negotiations you intended to use it for.

AJ: Of course. We are engaged in an on-going debate with Parliament members and government officials and of course, we sent them this report and we were engaged in that discussion.

RP: Did it influence any decision making on the side of Parliament in any way?

AJ: The report is not meant to influence anything it is a part of the discussion.

RP: Which is still on-going, so you cannot comment on the possible results?

AJ: No, the discussion has started and it is on-going.

RP: A discussion about the state's policy on tobacco consumption?

AJ: I think I was very clear.

Philip Morris, Czech Republic holds approximately 80 percent of the Czech market and plays a significant role in a country where 37 percent of the population over the age of 15 smoke cigarettes daily. Smoking is widely accepted and politicians, artists and others in the public eye do not hesitate to smoke in public.

Author: Olga Szantová
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