US tobacco giant spent millions to encourage haredi Jews to smoke, denies wrongdoing

Research by Hebrew University finds Philip Morris spent close to 3 million shekels in four years to promote cigarette smoking among haredi Jews in Israel.

By World Israel News Staff

The American tobacco corporation Philip Morris spend millions of shekels to promote smoking among Israel’s religious Jewish population, Kan reported.

The report cited research conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which found that the tobacco giant spent close to three million shekels ($880,000) over the past four years in targeted ad campaigns aimed at the haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) sector in Israel.

The haredi-targeted ad campaign relied heavily on printed advertisements, the Hebrew University research noted, since haredi Israelis rarely own television sets and are far less likely than non-haredi Jews to own smart phones or surf the internet regularly.

One of the Hebrew University researchers, Dr. Yael Bar-Zeev, said it was surprising that the Philip Morris campaign in Israel has targeted haredi Jews, who tend to smoke less than the national average. Arab men, by contrast, have the highest reported rate of smoking.

The Hebrew University report also claimed that Philip Morris skirts some advertising regulations limiting the promotion of tobacco by using QR codes and double-page ads, maximizing advertising space while not violating the ban on multiple cigarette ads in a single newspaper.

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Philip Morris told Kan in response that the company operates “according to the law and in line with the strictest regulation. The company advertises in accordance with Israeli law… and even reports to the Health Ministry as is required by law.”

The company also denied allegations it is attempting to encourage young non-smokers to start smoking, claiming instead that it is merely encouraging its existing customer base to transition to electronic cigarettes.

“Thanks to the determination and persistence of hundreds of scientists, engineers, and technicians, and an investment of more than nine billion dollars in science-based innovation, we are on the right track to realizing this vision. Today, close to 19 million adult smokers worldwide use the groundbreaking, smoke-free products we developed. The vast majority of those people (13.5 million) completely stopped smoking cigarettes.”