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Tobacco giant's Pharmacy Show sponsorship withdrawn amid outcry

Philip Morris Inc is seemingly no longer a sponsor and exhibitor at industry showcase the Pharmacy Show after pharmacists objected to the presence of the cigarette manufacturer at a healthcare conference.

The annual Pharmacy Show, which will be held on October 15 and 16 at the NEC Birmingham, bills itself as the “only dedicated trade show and education conference designed for the community and primary care pharmacy sector”.

It is the sector’s major conference event and features hundreds of “world class” speakers, including over 40 people employed in the NHS, according to its website.

Read more: How to optimise your smoking cessation service

Philip Morris, which produces Marlboro cigarettes and the “heated tobacco” product IQOS,  has exhibited at the show before, as noted in a tweet by a then-C+D staffer in 2019.

But this year, its presence sparked outcry on social media.

 

 

“Extremely poor judgement”

 

Earlier this month, Philip Morris was listed on the Pharmacy Show’s website both as an exhibitor and as the sponsor of a talk in the “public health and wellbeing theatre” that featured its UK head of “medical and scientific engagement” Dr Maria Mantzourani, according to screenshots posted on social media on September 9 and 11.

Pharmacist Darshan Negandhi said on X – formerly known as Twitter – on September 9 that he found the tobacco giant’s presence “strange” and asked if there was a “conflict” since smoking is “one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK”, according to the NHS.

Read more: Thinking outside the box: The pharmacist on a public health mission

Also posting on X on September 9, vice chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board Brendon Jiang described it as “extremely poor judgement from the conference organisers” if it was true that Philip Morris was exhibiting.

Pharmacist Toby Capstick said the following day that he felt it was “scandalous that pharmacy is the vehicle for whitewashing [its] role in smoking-related disease”, adding that the session would make him “ashamed” of his profession.

Read more: Pharmacy smoking cessation services hailed as DH rumoured to ditch tobacco plan

But by last week (September 12), following the outcry, the cigarette giant had been removed as an exhibitor and sponsor and the talk that it sponsored appeared to have been scrapped and replaced on the Pharmacy Show website.

It remains unclear whether it was axed by the organisers or whether it was a mutual decision.

However, not all traces of Philip Morris have been removed  Dr Mantzourani still appeared as a speaker at the conference today (September 20) in an archived page viewable here.

 

Internal conversations

 

A spokesperson for Pharmacy Show organisers Closer Still Media told C+D on September 12 that it was having internal conversations after concerns were raised about the cigarette giant’s presence at the conference, and promised to share a statement with C+D.

C+D has not received this statement or responses to detailed questions, including whether other representatives from the cigarette industry would be present, despite further prompts.

Philip Morris was contacted repeatedly but did not provide a response to C+D’s questions.

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