Nikkei Inc’s 26th International Conference on the Future of Asia proceeded on 20-21 May, minus the sponsorship of Philip Morris International (PMI). Following the decision from several leaders to withdraw from the conference because of the tobacco sponsorship, just days before the conference, on 17 May, PMI pulled out its sponsorship. The session in which PMI’s CEO, Jacek Olczak, was scheduled to speak was also cancelled.
PMI’s tactic to sponsor this conference would have enabled it to position itself on the same platform with Asia’s leaders and reap the benefits such a sponsorship brings – elevated profile and endorsement. However, on discovering PMI’s sponsorship, the New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Maldives Minister of Foreign Affairs and a World Bank representative requested to withdrew from the conference.
SEATCA joined renowned international organisations in an open letter calling on the organisers to end PMI’s sponsorship. The organisers also heard directly from other concerned groups and leaders.
The heads of state who spoke at this Conference have committed to reducing tobacco use and to protecting their people from the harms from tobacco when their countries ratified the Who Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Under the WHO FCTC, tobacco sponsorship such as that which PMI made with the conference organisers, must be banned.