July 30, 2019 / 4:05 PM / 19 days ago

Under fire, Swiss minister dumps Philip Morris as Expo sponsor

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland scrapped a 1.8 million Swiss franc ($1.8 million) sponsorship deal with Philip Morris International (PM.N) for the country’s pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai after being widely criticized for taking tobacco money to promote its image abroad.

FILE PHOTO: A booth is seen on a beach in Dubai carrying the Expo 2020 logo, October 20, 2013. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis made the decision so as “not to undermine the primary objective of the Swiss presence in Dubai, which is to convey a positive image of Switzerland”, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

“After examining the case, he decided that the work on this sponsorship should not be continued.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) had criticized the deal for violating agreements it had struck over Expo sponsorships.

Eight Swiss universities offering health education also told Cassis, a medical doctor, in a letter last week that taking money from a cigarette maker contradicted ethical principles.

Cassis has ordered revisions to the ministry’s sponsorship policy by the end of the year to prevent similar situations from re-occurring.

Philip Morris, which during the controversy had emphasized its efforts to promote heated tobacco products as an alternative to traditional smoking, said it was disappointed.

“We regret not only this decision, but also the circumstance that the foreign minister was brought into this position by activists and organizations, especially since these actors say they want to end smoking but apparently don’t have any interest in an open dialogue about grounded science, innovation and better alternatives for smokers,” it said in a statement.

The WHO, in a report on the global tobacco epidemic, said last week that e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products were not helping fight cancer.

The Geneva-based group said Philip Morris’s “Unsmoke” campaign aimed to ensure tobacco remained socially acceptable, while confusing consumers about products with toxic emissions and unknown health effects.

Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Mark Potter

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