Twitter users are criticizing Philip Morris International comms head Marian Salzman after a backlash to the tobacco company’s event this week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Some Twitter users have directed their anger at Salzman, SVP of global communications, voicing their outrage at the company and the message she is helping it to produce while it also markets cigarettes in some countries outside the U.S. Since Salzman joined PMI last April, she has supported what the company describes as its commitment to a smoke-free future. PMI has said products such as vapes and e-cigarettes will eventually replace cigarettes in some markets.
I had no intention of taking the job when @InsidePMI first approached me, and it took months for me to see how powerful this position is: I’ve been given a chance to help address a global public health issue involving millions of people. How do you pass that up? #smokefree— Marian Salzman (@mariansalzman) June 19, 2019
I get why people have strong feelings about the tobacco industry. Believe me, it was painful to see my father die of lung cancer. I joined @InsidePMI, a company with a critical public health mission: offering smokers who do not quit the chance to make a better choice. #smokefree— Marian Salzman (@mariansalzman) June 21, 2019
Some people aren’t having it.
Unfortunately you work for a company which for decades has been pushing STOP buttons on policies known & designed to reduce smoking. Your company did more than any other to try & stop plain packs, for example. Please stop your unctuous public drivel.— ??Simon Chapman AO (@SimonChapman6) June 21, 2019
Exactly and I agree. Please stop the unctuous public drivel.— Erin Mills (@NYSMom4Kiddos) June 21, 2019
I stopped.— Jack Hammer (@JackHam38216180) June 21, 2019
Never started again.
Stop trying to rationalize your evil.
This is a bit like watching someone trying to sell ice to Eskimos. It is a shame this ice is deadly.— Save Mona Vale Hospital (@mona_save) June 20, 2019
Salzman responded on Friday, tweeting that people have "every right to challenge PMI; you have no right to insult me or my team."
And good morning to you too. You have every right to challenge PMI; you have no right to insult me or my team.— Marian Salzman (@mariansalzman) June 21, 2019
Personal attacks against PMI employees on social media are common, the company’s VP of strategic and scientific communications, Moira Gilchrist, said via email.
"These distract from the important conversation on how to encourage the millions of men and women who would otherwise continue to smoke to instead switch to a smoke-free alternative," she said. "Some anti-tobacco organizations are more focused on hating us than helping smokers."
Salzman did not comment specifically on the personal attacks when reached for comment, but instead emailed the following statement about PMI’s activation at Cannes: "We went to Cannes Lions to talk and listen. Quit Big Tobacco told people to stay away from us and failed. But it’s a new day, with new conversations and a product that is a better alternative to cigarettes. We were challenged to do better and now we have."
Asked about its placement in the Good track at Cannes, she added that PMI was "not in any track as far as I know. This is not something we asked for."