Health Advocates to Mondelēz International: Stop Promoting Marlboro Cigarettes to Kids in Bolivia

Company’s Halls Candy Being Sold in “Combo” Packs with Marlboros

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and InterAmerican Heart Foundation Bolivia are calling on Mondelēz International, the giant snack food company, to immediately stop a promotion in Bolivia in which the company’s Halls drops product is being sold in “combo” packs with Marlboro cigarettes, the world’s best-selling cigarette brand made by Philip Morris International.

This promotion has been found in stores in La Paz and other cities in Bolivia. Advertisements for the “combo” packs feature regular and menthol Marlboro cigarettes, including “Ice Xpress” menthol cigarettes, and Halls menthol-flavored drops. View photos of the promotion.

While Halls is sold as a cough drop in the United States and other countries, it is marketed as a candy in Latin America and elsewhere. According to Mondelēz’s website, Halls “is the leading sugar confectionary brand in the world. In the northern hemisphere, Halls is sold as a cold relief product. In hotter and drier countries, however, Halls is used as a refreshing candy.”

In a Dec. 11 letter to Mondelēz CEO Dirk Van de Put, the U.S.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and InterAmerican Heart Foundation Bolivia called on the company to immediately end this promotion. However, Mondelēz has failed to respond and the Halls-Marlboro promotion is continuing.

“It is irresponsible to permit Halls to be packaged and sold with cigarettes, a product that kills up to half of lifetime users when used as intended,” the letter states. “The tobacco epidemic kills more than seven million people worldwide each year, with most deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries like Bolivia.

Even more egregious, the Halls-Marlboro dual packaging has the potential to appeal to non-smokers or to provide smokers suffering from throat issues a rationale for continuing to smoke. As the letter notes, “To attract new, young users tobacco companies design cigarettes to mask the harsh taste of tobacco use and ease initiation of smoking, including by adding menthol and fruit flavors. Scientific studies have shown that menthol makes cigarettes easier to smoke by reducing their harshness and the irritation from nicotine, thus facilitating youth initiation and accelerating addiction.” (Get more information on the impact of menthol cigarettes on youth smoking.)

Mondelēz International, which touts its focus on well-being, also sells other widely-recognized brands including Cadbury, Chips Ahoy, Oreo and Ritz. Marlboro is the world’s best-selling cigarette brand and is sold globally by Philip Morris International, a company with a long history of engaging in marketing that appeals to kids.

“Bolivia is facing alarming rates of tobacco use, with nearly 20 percent of young boys smoking cigarettes in our country,” said Alejandra Karina Garrón, Executive Director of InterAmerican Heart Foundation Bolivia. “Now, cigarettes are being packaged with candies – the perfect ‘starter pack’ for kids – luring them into a lifetime of addiction. This is not only shameful, it is dangerous to the health and well-being of millions of Bolivians.” 

“It is the height of corporate irresponsibility for Mondelēz to join Philip Morris in a promotion that packages candy with deadly cigarettes and is sure to appeal to kids,” said Mark Hurley, Director of Tobacco Industry Campaigns at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Philip Morris has a long history of marketing cigarettes in ways that appeal to kids. Why in the world would Mondelēz allow any of its products – let alone a global candy brand like Halls – to help Philip Morris market a product that addicts children and kills millions across the globe? Any responsible company – especially one that claims to be concerned with health and wellness – has no place doing business with Philip Morris.”

In their letter to Mondelēz, the two groups stated, “Your company’s Code of Conduct states ‘we have clear, restrictive rules for when and how we will market to kids’ and ‘we take great care to market responsibly.’ By working with Philip Morris or any tobacco company, you are violating your commitment to consumers and the public, and we believe that this irresponsible marketing practice undermines the integrity of the Mondelēz International brand and could undermine your reputation with consumers and shareholders.”

Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death. Without urgent action, tobacco use will claim one billion lives this century.