April 25-26, 2006
April 26, 2006
April 27, 2006

Photo credits (left to right): Getty Images/Michael Nagle; Daily Record/John Bell; Katy Pezzimenti; AFP/Don Emmert; Luke Witkowski; Getty Images/Michael Nagle

The photos included in this report were taken by many different people. They may be used for noncommercial purposes as long as they are properly credited. To obtain credit information, send an email to [email protected] and include the photo's url.


April 27, 2006

About 25 youth and adults who were part of the collective group went inside the Altria shareholders meeting itself. A television crew accompanied Shane Bradbrook (Te Reo Marama/Mäori Smokefree, New Zealand) in the van as the group entered the site, passing by the security checkpoints staffed by company security and local police.

Inside, VP Steve Parrish hovered on the sidelines while waiting for the show to begin. Behind us we heard two pro-tobacco shareholders talking. "Did you see that big cigarette pack labeled "Global Killer" as you came in?" "Problem is people don't get out of the U.S. [to understand how big smoking is elsewhere]" [Relates anecdote about everyone chain smoking in the Czech Republic] "You just have to keep your investments separate from your [conscience]…tobacco generates massive dividends!"

Finally the board of directors filed into the front row and then the CEO himself took to the stage. The meeting began with the usual fast-paced video collage of advertisements for the company's products around the world, as the voiceover said "brands symbolizing quality, reliability" and images of cheese switched to cigarettes and cigarettes to mayonnaise. "Rising across barriers of language and geography…unforgettable brands" the voice intoned, "aim to be the most successful and responsible business in the world." Profitable, yes. Responsible, NO!


CEO Louis Camilleri then gave the business report, lauding the company for last year's 27.7% in shareholder return. He noted that the restructuring of the company would happen on "[the company's] timeline" and that it would "not act prematurely." He pointed out that Philip Morris USA is the only tobacco company supporting FDA regulation, expressed disappointment with U.S. Congress for failing to the legislation, and disclosed that in the meantime the company is exploring opportunities to grow its "Quit Assist" program (a smokescreen to give the impression that the company really wants to lose its profitable customers). He also mentioned the company's creation of a Center for Research and Development in Richmond to address health and smoking, part of the company's "societal alignment initiative" (aka public relations campaign).

The CEO then detailed its international cigarette business…European Union down 11.9%...East Europe, Mideast and Africa up 5.3%...Russia up 27%...Japan down 7.1%...otherwise Asia up 73.1% with acquisition of Indonesia's Sampoerna…Latin America up 19.1% with acquisition of Coltabaco…Like in previous years, the CEO stated the company's support for the FCTC in principle, then denounced certain measures, e.g. ban on advertising, increased taxes, and promotion of litigation. He also described some of the many "youth smoking prevention" programs the company supports around the world, e.g. Australia's "18+ It's the Law" and Japan's "[No Smoking] under 20."

Camilleri concluded this portion of the program by saying, "PMI's growth potential continues to be attractive. With just a 15% share of the international market, it has plenty of room to expand both organically and through acquisitions. Given its superb brand portfolio, commitment to reducing the harm caused by tobacco and to building an increasingly agile organization, PMI is well-positioned for future growth.

Read the full transcript of Camilleri's speech

Q & A

During the question and answer period that followed, about a dozen tobacco control advocates addressed the CEO. To listen to their statements and the CEO's responses, check out the meeting webcast (after filling out a quick registration form).

Lauren Baisden, a youth with Wisconsin's FACT movement made the following statement on behalf of the youth inside and outside the meeting and the over 100 groups around the world who have signed on to a list of demands of the company (to listen go to 46:30 in above webcast):

BAISDEN: Good morning, Mr. Camilleri I am Lauren Baisden with Wisconsin FACT, I am here today with 100 youth advocates from all over the world, 25 whom are in this room. Altria has signaled that it is planning to split up into three separate companies: Kraft, Philip Morris USA, and Philip Morris International. There is worldwide concern that unleashing Philip Morris International from Altria will worsen the already devastating tobacco epidemic.

Mr Camilleri,as you head for a break up we call on you to give us a break from the following: Tobacco advertising and misleading descriptors like "light and mild"; lobbying on framework convention on tobacco control and against 100% smokefree places; invoking trade agreements to challenge tobacco control legislation; tobacco smuggling; secrecy about advertising expenditures, political contributions on lobbying cost; bogus youth prevention programs; and finally smoking and product placement in movies and other media. Over 100 groups in 50 countries have signed onto these demands. My question for you, Mr. Camillieri, is will you agree to these demands?

CAMILLERI'S RESPONSE: Well I won't agree to all of those demands. Um, you know, every year we have these discussions and I try to listen to hard and I try to understand and generally I do understand the positions. Uh frankly I'm having difficulty intellectually understanding that an independent PMI would make matters worse. If anything it should make things better because the spotlight would shine more on PMI, so intellectually I'm having a problem. With regards to PMI's policies and programs, I would really encourage you to read the PMI website. As I said earlier don't let your animosity of this industry and this company in particular blind your judgment and sometimes mischaracterize the facts. So thank you.

Soon after, Shane Kawenata Bradbrook brought the room to full attention by starting his statement in the Maori language (to listen go to 53:15 in above webcast)…

BRADBROOK: [Opens in Maori] My name is irrelevant but my culture is not! I am Maori, a native New Zealander. I am here to represent Maori in the matter of Philip Morris International using our culture to sell tobacco products. In 2005, it came to our organisations attention that PMI was selling a product in Israel called Maori Mix under the L & M brand.

Let me tell you, this product called 'Maori Mix' was an absolute affront to my people! Your company's misappropriation and exploitation of our culture to sell your product of death and illness to Israelis was at a minimum culturally insensitive - and at worst another form of oppression and abuse that indigenous peoples have faced for decades.

I stand before you to hold you in absolute contempt and derision. I don't expect a weak apology or some glib rationale from you for associating our culture with Maori Mix. But I do have a message for you:

The message from my culture and my people is clear:


It's simple really, if it looks like and smells like exploitation it is exploitation!

In closing, as I said I am but one representative of my people but I am surrounded by my ancestors and the good thoughts and support of thousands in my homeland.

We have a well known phrase in my language:


I stand here in that tradition of resistance and struggle to this affront and exploitation of my people!

CAMILLERI'S RESPONSE: Well thanks you for coming to this meeting and I fully understand your position…Um [clears throat] to make it clear to everybody…Yes, we made the mistake of launching a limiting addition product called Maori Mix. We regret that it was a mistake. By the time we found out about the mistake - to show how limited the addition it was, which was late September of '05, we couldn't find the product in retail stores. That was the only time we've used that product. We have written to your representatives. We have apologized, and we have confirmed that we will not be using that product anywhere in the world again. So I apologize again to you and your people. Thank you.[Shane interjects that he will take the apology back to his people, but that he won't accept that it was "a mistake"] Well, regretfully we also make mistakes.

(Now if only the company would apologize for the millions of people its products have killed…)


During the shareholder proposals that followed four youth and adults who were part of our group had a chance to make statements. You can check out their statements at the following points in the webcast:

Proposal 4: Extend New York Fire-Safe Products Globally

  • 1:38:00: Emily Martuscello (Dover Youth 2 Youth/NH)

Proposal 6: Support for Laws at All Levels Combating Use of Tobacco

  • 2:00:15: Gustavo Torrez (Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails/CA)
  • 2:02:20: Serena Bonneville (FACT/WI)
  • 2:04:28: Dana Mitchell (Dover Youth 2 Youth/NH)

And for a little comic relief, check out the irate pro-tobacco shareholder from Connecticut who compared our statements to a "terrorist action" against the company (at 1:57:40 & 2:16:24 in the webcast)


At the end of the meeting, a video montage detailed all the wonderful charitable work that Altria is doing around the world, including disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina. At this point, we unveiled a banner that said "Altria/Philip Morris: Give the World a Break from…" and held photos of some of the things that the company is up to around the world.

At the close of the meeting, a youth tried to deliver one of the "Happy Birthday Marlboro" cards to the CEO, who was whisked away down the hall by security to prevent any handoff of materials.

At the exit, all attendees were given bags filled with the company's products (no cigarettes).

More information:

Essential Action's Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control program links tobacco control groups in the U.S. and Canada with groups in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Central/Eastern Europe to monitor and resist Big Tobacco's global expansion. For more information, visit our website