A coalition of eight national and international health organizations today urged The Walt Disney Company (Disney) to require its partner network, Vice, to terminate its relationship with Philip Morris International, the world’s largest manufacturer and seller of cigarettes.
Disney, a prominent stakeholder, has invested more than $400 million in Vice and reportedly owns more than 10% of the company. The health organizations are asking Disney to require that Vice adopt a strict policy prohibiting the company and its subsidiaries from working with tobacco companies. Second, the groups want Disney to require Vice to make all tobacco-related business relationships public, including a detailed description of all tobacco-related marketing activities.
Vice’s existing partnership with Philip Morris International undermines the strong anti-tobacco stance taken by Disney and its commitment to protecting youth from tobacco and smoke exposure, according to the health organizations.
The groups that have signed on to the appeal include Truth Initiative®, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, The Union (International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease), the American Academy of Pediatrics and Vital Strategies.
The Financial Times recently reported on a $6.5 million deal between Vice and Phillip Morris International to produce sponsored content endorsing e-cigarettes. Vice and Phillip Morris International have disputed the details of the arrangement and claim it will not promote vaping, but they have acknowledged that Vice is accepting funding from Phillip Morris International to create a media platform.
The prospect of a media platform with the presumed intent to promote e-cigarettes and smoking products is deeply troubling to national health organizations. In 2018, the U.S. surgeon general declared e-cigarette use among youth a public health epidemic. Recent data show that in 2018, 20.8% of U.S. high school students used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. Further, young people who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to progress to cigarette smoking compared to their peers who do not use e-cigarettes.