15 December 2020 EconoTimes

Industry insider complaint threatens to upset Big Tobacco’s applecart

At first glance, a complaint recently filed in New York might seem nothing more than a dry legal dispute. However, closer inspection reveals that the document is filled with embarrassing allegations against tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) stemming from one of its longtime collaborators, Israeli businessman Raoul Setrouk.

Among other accusations, Setrouk alleges that PMI facilitated the theft of his intellectual property, involved itself in the illegal smuggling of its own products (including into the US-embargoed nation of Libya) and manipulated survey data underpinning widely cited KPMG reports in order to conceal its wrongdoing.

As well as shining a fresh spotlight on the serious problem of the parallel tobacco trade, the complaint serves as vindication for the public health campaigners who have long insisted there was something fishy about KPMG’s findings—and that, more broadly, tobacco manufacturers leave dirty fingerprints on any research and policy initiatives. The question now is whether the recent complaint will serve as a wake-up call to regulators across the globe, many of whom have sleepwalked into partnerships with the very industry undermining their tobacco control efforts.

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