Six things about... Marc Firestone3 min read
Collaborator, challenger of misconceptions, two-job man: Get to know PMI's President of External Affairs and General Counsel
1. Marc unifies two jobs in one.
“External affairs and general counsel would normally be regarded as separate briefs, but at this time, the unification makes sense for PMI. Our paramount business strategy is to focus on developing innovative, non-combustible forms of tobacco products to replace cigarettes. It’s a bold, exciting effort with many aspects – public policy, consumer protection, legal, ethics, corporate conduct, sustainability – that we’re handling through External Affairs as a multi-disciplinary function.”
2. He challenges misconceptions.
“We’ve been in the cigarette business a long time, and regulators naturally think of us in that way. Only a few years ago all of our revenue was from cigarettes. Now we’re the world’s leading manufacturer of heat-not-burn tobacco products. Whenever we have a few minutes to show what we’re doing, what we’ve accomplished, where we’re headed, policy makers see that we’re doing something that really is as dramatic as it sounds.”
3. Marc would like to see a more proactive attitude among lawmakers.
“There’s no doubt that tobacco products need to be strictly regulated.” But Marc thinks that regulation need to be more up to date with innovation: “The pace of product innovation typically exceeds innovation in legal and regulatory frameworks, and that’s certainly true of tobacco. In bringing our new, non-combustible tobacco products to markets around the world, we’ve been working under pre-existing tobacco-control laws. Those laws date back many years, didn’t always contemplate 21st-century technology, and can unintentionally or unreasonably constrain better consumer choice.”
4. He believes in collaboration.
“What we are saying in plain English is: ‘Ms. Regulator, Mr. Regulator, please work with us to encourage people who smoke to become aware of better alternatives, and to understand the risks and benefits of switching completely.’ The role of regulators, as Marc sees it, is to design a regulatory framework that will enable consumers to make accurately informed choices. PMI, for its part, has not only conducted thousands and thousands of tests and experiments connected to its innovative products, made the data public and published peer-reviewed articles, but has also opened the doors of its R&D facility for people to see the quality of the work that is being done.
5. He dislikes generalizations.
“People who say that ‘tobacco is tobacco’ are missing the point completely. It is a simple fact of life that not all tobacco products are the same.” The important thing, Marc insists, is what the consumer is inhaling – the smoke from a burning cigarette or the aerosol from a non-combustible product. “If science shows that there is a difference between two products, shouldn’t the products be treated differently? And shouldn’t consumers be made aware of the differences?”
6. Marc believes in better outcomes from a real-world approach
“Ten years from now, people will ask, ‘Why did my friend or loved one not know about these products and not have the chance to make a better choice?’ While he thinks that someone would be answerable for that, he strongly believes that companies and policy makers can ensure a much better outcome through a real-world approach, one with common sense instead of polemics or ideology. Indeed, in his words “one that addresses the interests of men and women who will otherwise keep smoking”. According to Marc it comes down to innovative policies that propel innovative products.