Just like the opioid manufacturer’s getting money from addiction treatment medications, the manufacturers of cigarettes are capitalizing on asthma and COPD

October 7, 2021

Summary: Philip Morris acquired several healthcare companies in the last few years, including asthma inhaler producer Vectura for $1.52 billion. Though, its primary business comes from the sales of cigarettes and vaping pods. Cigarette smoking and vaping are well known to cause COPD, asthma, and severe lung disease. Thus, it appears that Philip Morris wants to gain influence in the healthcare sector by producing products to tackle respiratory diseases. These acquisitions would provide a company a greater say in healthcare, and at the same time, undermining the trust of people in healthcare companies. Thus, many think it is a similar business model followed by companies that created opioid epidemics in the US. As they first made the epidemic, and now capitalizing on its treatment.

Keywords: Philip Morris, COPD, Asthma, tobacco smoking, e-cigarettes, asthma inhalers

It appears that Philip Morris is on a buying spree. It is not rare for large corporations to buy smaller ventures that fit into their business model. However, this time many eyes have been raised. It is because many recent Philip Morris acquisitions are of healthcare companies. So, recently it acquired Vectura for $1.52 billion1.

Vectura specializes in making asthma inhalers. It means that Philip Morris may be trying to capitalize on the high prevalence of COPD and Asthma in various population groups. But that is not all. It may use the knowledge-base of healthcare companies to promote its other products, overcome certain legal issues, and even project itself as a company that cares about health.

Philip Morris is among the companies that contributed considerably to the rise of Asthma and COPD. And yet, it wasn’t easy for the healthcare organizations to make the company admit that tobacco poses health risks. It took billions of dollars of expenditure to prove that cigarette smoking was harmful to health. And, now, once this awareness has been raised, Philip Morris also wants to gain from these findings.

For Philip Morris, the cigarette business remains the prime source of business. It has a turnover of about $76 billion. But now, it wants to achieve $1 billion from the pharmaceutical business. Experts believe that this would certainly undermine the trust of the population in medications. Moreover, the company has acquired many other healthcare firms, thus providing it a way of influencing the healthcare sector.

There is indeed some news coming that Philip Morris may exit the cigarette business in many nations2. However, this does not mean that the company has changed. Its e-cigarette brand IQOS leads in vaping industry. The company promoted it as a safe alternative to tobacco smoking. However, these claims are now proven to be wrong. In fact, e-cigarette fosters the culture of smoking among the young. Even worse, it is related to a severe lung injury, irreversible injury with fatal outcomes in many cases.

Despite the proven health risks of tobacco smoking and vaping, the company remains the leading player in this business. It does intend to leave this business until or unless these segments become financially unattractive. But then the company is always keeping an eye on other similar developing sectors. Thus, Philip Morris is open to enter the cannabis market.

Again, cannabis may become legal and more widely accepted, quite like cigarette smoking. Nevertheless, severe ill effects of cannabis abuse remain a medical fact – and Philip Morris is ready to enter the segment if needed.

Thus, the company’s strategy of “Beyond Nicotine” does not point at the change in the company’s DNA. Its acquisition of pharmaceutical companies may rather point at more malicious plans. It is a step to gain lobbying power and influence in the health sector to ensure that its core business can continue unhindered.

Therefore, it would be right to draw parallels between the Philip Morris business strategy and that followed by opioid manufacturers. Many opioid manufacturers also produce medications to counter opioid dependency.


1. Subramanian S. Philip Morris wants to sell you inhalers for your asthma. Quartz. Accessed October 3, 2021. https://qz.com/2060628/philip-morris-wants-to-sell-you-inhalers-for-your-asthma/

2. Marlboro maker Philip Morris could stop selling cigarettes in the UK. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57964253. Published July 26, 2021. Accessed October 3, 2021.

3. Health CO on S and. Smoking and Tobacco Use; Electronic Cigarettes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published August 3, 2021. Accessed October 3, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

4. Marlboro-Maker Philip Morris Keeps Cannabis Options Open. Bloomberg.com. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-28/marlboro-maker-philip-morris-keeps-cannabis-options-open. Published April 28, 2021. Accessed October 3, 2021.

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