Where I Stand

My decision to take on the role of head of global communications at Philip Morris International (PMI) surprised a lot of people—not least, myself!

I am not a smoker, nor am I an advocate of smoking. Quite the opposite. I am the daughter of a longtime smoker (cigars, pipe, an occasional cigarette) who died of lung cancer and am myself a survivor of two atypical meningiomas (brain tumors). While my tumors were not tobacco-related, they were sufficiently frightening to move my health and well-being from an occasional thought to a primary focus. And they redoubled my commitment to promoting “better for you” products to others in my work as a PR professional.

Marian Salzman - A globally recognized Trendspotter

Consequently, had PMI approached me in 2018 to help them sell cigarettes, I would have said a quick, adamant (and likely not overly polite) “NO.” That’s not why they came to me. PMI asked me to help them achieve their vision of a smoke-free world. A world that would contribute to a far better future for the millions of people who currently smoke tobacco and are unwilling to quit—those men and women who would otherwise continue to smoke.

That was a challenge I couldn’t pass up. 

Having seen firsthand the harm smoking can cause and having witnessed people’s struggles to stop (my father being a case in point), I was energized by the opportunity to use my expertise to help current adult smokers quit. And if they don’t do so, to embrace a science-based, smoke-free alternative to smoking—one that significantly reduces the average levels of harmful chemicals inhaled compared to cigarette smoke, and that eliminates the potential dangers of secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is the reason I’ve never let people smoke in my home. I sneeze when I’m around it, and I can’t bear the lingering scent.

In a perfect world, tobacco wouldn’t exist. In the real world, it does—and PMI has put its full weight behind making sure that those people who choose to continue consuming tobacco or nicotine products do so in a manner that, while not risk-free, is a better choice than continuing to smoke. It’s my job to start the conversation, to encourage nonsmokers never to start and to inspire current adult smokers to quit entirely or, if they don’t, to switch to a smoke-free alternative. It may not be the perfect solution, but it’s an important start—and one in which I am proud to play a role.