The people behind the lobby

The people behind the lobby
The people behind the lobby
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Albert Sánchez, previously a strategist for Philip Morris in Lausanne, is the tobacco company’s new country manager for the Netherlands. Here he encourages the opening of specialty tobacco stores next to supermarkets to advertise PMI’s alternative smoking products.

By the web editors

If it were up to Albert Sánchez, country manager for the Netherlands for Philip Morris International (PMI) since September last year, every smoker would immediately switch from cigarettes to their alternative tobacco product. At least that’s what he recently said Distrifood in an interview, in which he claims that there is scientific consensus that alternative smoking products are less unhealthy than cigarettes. “If it were up to us, smokers would switch to these types of alternatives as quickly as possible,” the supermarket trade magazine quotes PMI’s representative in the Netherlands.

That is why Sánchez says he is happy that tobacco sales are moving from supermarkets to tobacco specialty stores, because PMI cannot advertise its nicotine alternatives in supermarkets, but can in specialty stores. Hence PMI, like Distrifood recently unveiled, provides financial and organizational support to supermarket owners in opening separate tobacco stores next to their supermarkets.

15 years in business

As country manager in the Netherlands, Sánchez succeeds Kevin Van Boven, who has been responsible for strategy and program rollout since December (program delivery) of PMI in Southeastern Europe. Sánchez was born in Barcelona and, according to his LinkedIn profile, studied Industrial Engineering at the Universitat Ramon Llull, was visiting student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, worked from 2010 at KPMG (a big tobacco friend) and then at Unilever as a consultant and manager. Via GB Foods (including Grand’Italia), where he was responsible for the company’s financial growth, he started in 2019 as a strategist at Philip Morris International in Lausanne, Switzerland. From May to September last year he was director of strategy for the European region.

Display ban made advertising impossible

Sánchez says he thinks it is a good idea for supermarkets to stop selling tobacco products, because smoking products are hidden from the visitor’s view and the tobacco company is not allowed to organize promotions there. According to him, tobacconists are a much better option for promoting the alternatives. Sánchez: “There we can explain to smokers that it is a real tobacco product, but without many of the disadvantages associated with cigarettes.”

That is a statement worth taking a closer look at. The Iqos is indeed a real tobacco product, in which the tobacco is not burned, but heated. According to PMI, that makes the difference. But research has shown that the Iqos also produces smoke and is harmful to health. In a recent fact sheet on heated tobacco, the Trimbos Institute also concludes that these products do indeed involve combustion, albeit incomplete combustion. The institute notes that there are carcinogenic substances in the emissions from heated tobacco products and that the products are often used interchangeably with cigarettes.

New tobacco shops receive financial PMI support

What Sánchez leaves unmentioned is that PMI, like other tobacco companies, wants to keep as many people as possible addicted to nicotine with alternative nicotine products promoted as ‘less harmful’ (e-cigarettes, heated tobacco, nicotine pouches). PMI was the first to put up a smokescreen by embracing the smoke-free world in its corporate story. This noble pursuit does not alter the fact that nicotine addiction remains the business model and that PMI systematically looks for ways to market its addictive products.

That is why PMI encourages the opening of new tobacco shops, which Sánchez is in Distrifood-interview did not want to say too much about it: “We will certainly talk to entrepreneurs, but I cannot give details about that. That is competitively sensitive information. But I can say that we have a constructive relationship with all parties in the chain. If entrepreneurs have plans, dialogue is possible and I am sure it will mostly be positive discussions.”

That shouldn’t be surprising, because Distrifood heard from various entrepreneurs that PMI takes care of the design of new businesses and also places an employee in the store for a number of years who can inform customers about nicotine alternatives. It could be that country manager Sánchez also gives supermarket owners ideas with such an offer.

Man of the law

In this way, PMI actively undermines government policy aimed at reducing the number of tobacco sales points. As of July 1, tobacco sales must disappear from supermarkets and, whether or not encouraged by the major tobacco companies and distributors, supermarket owners are opening separate tobacco shops (see our list of New Tobacco Sales Points).

Meanwhile, Sánchez believes that we should not exaggerate: “Thousands of points of sale are disappearing and the number of tobacco shops is only growing by a few dozen. That is in no way proportional to each other. The Netherlands has no licensing system, so entrepreneurs are free to open such a store.” Which shows that Sánchez, like a real tobacco man, does not look at the spirit, but only at the letter of the law.

tags: nicotine addiction | IQOS | Trimbos | tobacco lobby | tobacco specialty store | supermarket | heat stick | PMI | tobacco pushers

The article is in Dutch

Tags: people lobby

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