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Tobacco Giant Philip Morris International To Relocate To Connecticut

PMI CEO Jacek Olczak at the announcement alongside Gov. Ned Lamont

Philip Morris International -- one of the largest tobacco companies in the world -- is moving its U.S. headquarters to Connecticut from New York. The business says it will site its head office at a yet-to-be-chosen location in Fairfield County, bringing 200 jobs to the state. The relocation is slated to be complete by summer of 2022.

The office of Gov. Ned Lamont said no job-based state incentives have been offered to secure the deal.

PMI does not sell cigarettes or other tobacco products in the U.S. but instead operates in international markets, many with lower government regulations. As of 2018, PMI and its subsidiaries sold its products in over 180 markets and owned six of the top 15 international cigarette brands, including Marlboro, Merit and Parliament. In 2019, the company reported that it held more than 28% of the global market for cigarette and heated tobacco products outside of the U.S. and China.

PMI was spun out of Philip Morris in 2008. The former parent company rebranded as Altria and continues to sell tobacco products in the U.S.

Making the announcement in Stamford Tuesday morning, CEO Jacek Olczak focused on what he termed the company’s research efforts in the United States.

“The vision, which was very clearly stated from Philip Morris International from the very beginning, is to invest into science,” he said, “and develop the products which are vastly better alternatives than continuing smoking for the people who otherwise anyway would continue smoking.”

The company markets what it calls a heated tobacco product, similar to an e-cigarette or vape, called IQOS.

Welcoming PMI to Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont said the deal began with a personal introduction and a private dinner with company executives before the pandemic.

“When we first got together it wasn’t all about the numbers,” he said. “We talked a lot about what I thought made this state special and why it could be special for PMI.”

“It’s an incredibly international state, we’re very proud of that. I think you’re going to feel right at home here,” he told Olczak.

Lamont only very briefly addressed the controversial nature of PMI’s business, speaking of the company as one that is reinventing itself.

“I come out of the private sector. If you don’t reinvent yourself, you get run over,” he said.

Lamont's next assignment Tuesday after the PMI announcement was a ceremony to sign the bill that will legalize recreational cannabis in Connecticut. Asked during a press gaggle after the signing whether PMI had interest in that development, the governor was categorical.

"They told me they have absolutely no plans to get into the regulated marijuana market," Lamont said.

Anti-smoking advocates were dismayed by news of the relocation.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called the timing of the announcement troubling.

“It comes literally just days after the Connecticut legislature protected the tobacco industry’s interests at the expense of the state’s kids by killing a bill to end the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes,” he said. “Philip Morris and the tobacco company’s fingerprints were behind the effort to scuttle that bill from the very beginning.”

Myers says the economic benefit of the 200 jobs promised by the tobacco company pale in comparison to the loss of thousands of Connecticut residents who die each year from smoking-related diseases.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network also weighed in.

“While they may put up a smokescreen about the dangers of what they sell, there is no denying that tobacco companies like Phillip Morris create products that addict and kill thousands in Connecticut and hundreds of thousands across the country each year,” said Amber Herting in a statement. “With the tobacco industry taking up residence in Connecticut, it’s time for lawmakers to recommit to protecting our kids, communities of color and other groups targeted by Big Tobacco from deadly tobacco addiction.”

She called on the state to fully fund tobacco prevention and control programs and end the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

Patrick Skahill contributed to this story.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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