Cigarettes not that hard to quit?

The top executive at Philip Morris International tells shareholders that smokes aren't so addictive.

By Kim Peterson May 11, 2011 3:02PM
Image: Man smoking (© Steve Mason/Photodisc Blue/Getty Images)I've known only one person who easily gave up cigarettes. He threw his last pack away and simply stopped then and there. It truly was that simple. Of the other ex-smokers I know, quitting was a nightmare.

Perhaps it was this person that Philip Morris International's (PM) chief executive was thinking about recently when he said that it's "not that hard to quit" cigarettes. Louis Camilleri was asked about the issue at the company's annual shareholder meeting. A nurse said that one of her patients told her it was harder to quit cigarettes than crack, cocaine or methamphetamine.

Camilleri acknowledged that cigarettes are harmful and addictive. "Whilst it is addictive, it is not that hard to quit," he told the nurse. "There are more previous smokers in America today than current smokers."

There are flaws all over that logic. The fact that more people have quit does not mean it's easy to do so. Of the 19 million U.S. adults who tried to quit in 2005, only 4% to 7% were successful, one study showed. Huge industries have been built around the fact that people can't easily quit, offering nicotine gum, inhalers, lozenges, nasal sprays or patches for help.

Camilleri himself has only quit once, for three months when he had a cold, and is still a smoker today, the Associated Press reports.

Still, it's not that shocking that he would take this stance. The tobacco industry has fought hard against every health claim that could hurt sales. The industry hid the true dangers of smoking, and wouldn't admit for decades that cigarettes were addictive.

So of course executives would now say that cigarettes aren't hard to quit.

"It's in the interest of executives to give the impression that they don't want new smokers to take up smoking, that they believe that people who do, can quit, but the statistics tell another story," a Morningstar analyst told the Associated Press.

But Camilleri is partly right: There are more ex-smokers in this country than there are smokers. Yet all of Camilleri's efforts are focused overseas as head of Philip Morris International.

Philip Morris International's profit rose 14.5% last year as its net revenue, excluding excise taxes, rose 8.7%. The company's stock price has been on fire in the last year, going from $46 last May to $68.14 this afternoon.

Update: Just to clarify: This post refers to Philip Morris International, which is a separate company from Philip Morris USA. Altria Group (MO) spun off Philip Morris International in 2008, and continues to own Philip Morris USA.

May 12, 2011 8:47AM
I have to say that I enjoyed smoking. I smoked about a pack a day for 37 years. Thanksgiving 2010 I found a lump in my neck. After many tests at the hospital, on Jan.5, of this year I was diagnosed with stage 3B lung cancer. I haven't had a smoke since that day. Sure I want one, sometimes. But I do go days without thinking about a cigarette. It amazes me that after that many years of smoking that it wasn't that hard to quit-because I HAD TO. I didn't use, gum, lozenges, patches, or anything else. Quit cold turkey. I tried Chantix a couple years ago and for me it was a waste of money. I have heard that "cold turkey" is the way to go. If you are a smoker, don't wait til you HAVE to quit, quit now, so you can enjoy the rest of your life without being sick. Watch your children and their children grow. Food tastes better, you'll have more energy and you'll feel better. I was lucky, After only 4 cycles of chemo, my cancer is almost gone; just a tiny spot left on my lung and that may be able to be removed with surgery. I will find that out soon. I smoked for so long that I never thought I would preach to someone to quit, but take it from me, going through what I have the last few months is no way to live. I have to live the rest of my life in fear that the caner will come back- but I will never smoke again.
May 13, 2011 9:22AM
Ha, he says only quit when he had a cold for 3 MONTHS! Only a smoker could have a "cold" that lasts three months! Quitting was very hard for me, I had several failed attempts. Glad to say that I no longer get sick for months at a time with chest colds. Remember: EVERY TIME YOU TRY TO QUIT, YOUR ODDS OF SUCCEEDING IMPROVE! Keep trying!
May 13, 2011 12:31PM
Somebody should punch that CEO in the face.
May 13, 2011 10:43AM
Thank you Mr. Camilleri.  My father died from lung cancer due to his inability to stop smoking.  I will go home tonight and share your insightful information with his ashes.
May 13, 2011 11:00AM
My god we still live in a world where people think their personal experience is all that is needed to answer a question permanently. 

Guy A says he quit and had no problem, therefore it quitting is easy.  Guy B says the opposite.  Any chance both are true, and the people who swear by the facts because that is what they experienced, have bigger problems than worrying about proving their "point" in a message thread?

May 11, 2011 10:41PM
I quit smoking about two months ago, after 33 years of smoking. Best (and hardest) thing I've done. And it was not easy to do....still wanting a cigarette!!
May 12, 2011 9:03AM
I used to go through 3 packs of cigarettes a day.   But in 1983, my company CEO decided to quit smoking and offered to pay for any employees that wanted to quit as well.  He brought in a local hospital stop smoking program and 50+ people signed up.  It was basically a cold turkey/smoking aversion/incentive  program.  I struggled mightily.  I felt physically ill and actually hallucinated.  But many of my co-workers told me how easy it was for them and I persisted.  I chewed nicorette gum, even though I have never been a gum chewer.  I was determined that I was not going to be the only one to fail in my quest to stop this nasty, addictive habit.  As it turned out, of the 50+ that started the program, TWO of us actually quit.  I actually got a bit hooked on the nicorette and had to eventually substitute a spicy cinnamon gum to wean myself off the gum.    I haven't had a single cigarette since that October day in 1983 and have been forever grateful to my former boss for providing the incentive. Quitting can be accomplished, but it was one of the hardest things I have ever been subjected to in my life.
May 11, 2011 10:29PM
This Moron needs to be fired for GROSS STUPIDITY. I'm 66 years old and quitting smoking (30 years ago) remains the single toughest thing I've ever done in my life. I actually quit smoking hundreds (maybe even thousands) of times. I quit every morning that my lungs were burning up for about 10 years. Only to be sucked back into that black hole as the day progressed and tensions rose. Finally, one day it became do or die & I finally escaped the grip of that ugly beast - never to look back. That punk should be Xitch slapped just for making such a rediculous comment.  
May 13, 2011 8:28AM

Really?  not that hard?  I smoked for 30 years.  Gave up smoking & drinking with the help of Chantix.  Pissed off alot of friends and family along the way (the Chantix).  Applogies were made and accepted.


I've been clean of tobacco and alcohol for 3 years and know that i'm just 1 puff away from addiction.  Fortunatly, I quit when I learned I was going to be a grandfather.  the baby was born 3 months early and was on resperators.  I'm so glad I quit so that I can be around her.  She is very sensetive to cigarette smoke.


Here's the key for me.  My desire to NOT smoke outweighs my desire to smoke.  All I have to do is look at that beautiful little face and I want to live forever.  My problem is that the Tobacco comapanies are STILL trying to feed us full of BS about their product.  I'll take his comments seriously after he quits and stays smoke free.  Saying that you "choose" to smoke is crap.  if it was that easy, then there would be pratically NO smokers at all.  Let's face it.  All smokers WANT to quit at some point.  Unfortunatly, the body's desire for the poison outweighs common sense and logical thinking.


Get it together congress.  You outlawed DDT.  Why isn't Tobacco (and it's related additives) catagorized as human toxins by the FDA?  This won't go away until it's illegal.


The government thinks they can tell a woman what to do with their bodies, what's the difference here?


May 13, 2011 8:52AM
Quit cold turkey three weeks ago..felt anxious during the day and rolled around in bed and then it passed....just like anything else you have to push through.  Hopefully it holds.
May 13, 2011 4:20PM
Mr. Camilleri is correct.  It is not hard at all to quit.  I know a guy who, just last week, quit 3 times.  Nothing to it.
May 13, 2011 10:52AM
BIGGEST LOAD OF BS!!   If so I dare them to take out the nicotine!!!!! Then tell me its not attictive.  It should be illegal for them to add an addictive ingredient.
May 13, 2011 2:49PM

Apparently this guy has lived in denial for so long he still thinks he still has credibility.

How about we take his smokes away and let him quit for a year on live TV.

May 12, 2011 9:04AM
The man is a moron, quitting is excruciating. I've quit more times than I can remember, but still continued on. I know, I'm an idiot. I've been smoking since I was 12, am 58 now. Have battled cancer, but still smoke. Why? I'm totally addicted. I'm going to try the e-cigarettes next. I've quit, then stress happens and start up again. I admit, I'm weak, but I keep trying to get rid of this addiction. I understand why this man is saying such ludicrous things, he's living comfortably. One day, he too will find out what smoking does to you. Then all his money will not buy him his health. I'm so happy for all of those who have quit, believe me, I'll keep trying.
May 13, 2011 1:30PM

Cannabis is a great alternative to tobacco and it can help wean a drug addict off his crutch.


What, you didn't know tobacco smokers are drug addicts?

May 13, 2011 3:17PM
I smoked heavily for about 30 yrs.  You sir, are 1. a liar  2.  a sickness, disease and death monger  3. evil minded.  Thank God I am finally free from nicotine!  I feel better, I look better and I smell better! 
May 11, 2011 9:17PM
"Quitting smoking is easy, I've done it a hundred times"- Mark Twain
May 12, 2011 2:41AM
This is quite possibly the longest comment section I've read that doesn't blame the president for something.
May 11, 2011 8:28PM

Someone whom I love dearly was once a heroin addict who kicked cold turkey.  He also escaped alcoholism.  But he told me that quitting smoking is the hardest thing he's EVER

tried to stop.

May 12, 2011 8:18AM
I quit a 2 pack a day habit for over 40 years. It's been over 14 months now since I quit and I still get cravings every once in a while but it only lasts for a minute or so. I see a lot of negative comments about Chantix but it made quitting easy for me. I don't know why or how but it did the trick. I stayed on it for 6 months and have never felt better about myself and in general my health has improved. Make up your mind to quit and then do everything you can to succeed. It doesn't matter if you go cold turkey, nicotine patches, nicotine gum or Chantix. Never quit trying. Count those cigarettes every day and strive to smoke less each day. You can do it if I can. Good luck.
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