The fact that politicians go into business after their active time and become lobbyists causes some frowns. A nationally known social democrat did this and now has a new job.
Schleswig-Holstein’s former Prime Minister Torsten Albig (SPD) has switched to the tobacco company Philip Morris as a lobbyist. The 60-year-old will head the External Affairs division of the German subsidiary of the global cigarette manufacturer, as announced by Philip Morris GmbH in Gräfelfing today.
“I want to support the company in its transformation from a tobacco manufacturer to a supplier of low-emission products,” said the ex-politician of the dpa. He was referring to the Iqos tobacco heater, which Philip Morris is heavily promoting, but whose market share is still small.
He himself is a non-smoker
If adult smokers switched to such products, this would have the potential to reduce health risks, says Albig. “The best thing is of course to stop smoking.”
The social democrat claims to be a non-smoker. “I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life.” His mother and grandparents, on the other hand, were heavy smokers, which is why all three had serious health problems. “My mother kept wanting to quit smoking, but she always started,” says Albig. If there had been products with reduced pollutants back then, “then that would have been an option for her and she might have been spared a lot”.
Demand for information campaigns
Albig calls for a different approach to dealing with smoking and more information campaigns from federal politics. In Italy and Japan, low-emission products have a significantly higher market share than in Germany. He also refers to Sweden, where only a few people smoke. The tobacco product snus is widespread there. This is not smoked, but pushed under the upper lip. The snus manufacturer Swedish Match belongs to Philip Morris, but the product cannot be sold in Germany.
Tobacco heaters, on the other hand, are available in this country, and Philip Morris’ competitor British American Tobacco is also involved with the glo brand. The products are controversial. On the one hand, there are voices that see it as a lesser evil. Unlike cigarettes, tobacco is not burned, just heated. On the other hand, the German Cancer Research Center, for example, warns against playing it down – even tobacco heaters are bad for your health. In the absence of long-term studies, the exact consequences are still unclear.
“The primary goal of the state must be to reduce the consequences of smoking for people and the resulting costs for the healthcare system,” says Albig, referring to the people who fall ill and are treated year after year from the consequences of tobacco consumption must. “With regulation that is open to innovation, a significant reduction in costs would be possible.”
The tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) wants to get out of the classic cigarette business in the long term and therefore relies on Iqos, e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches worldwide. However, the lion’s share of sales still comes from selling brands like Marlboro and L&M.
Change could cause a stir
The personnel is likely to be discussed controversially. When asked if he wasn’t doing his party a disservice by moving into the controversial tobacco industry, Albig said Philip Morris is “a significant company” with an important goal, which is to sell significantly more low-pollution products than before. “Regardless of me, it’s always good for my party when its members find acceptance in business and take on leading roles there.”
Born in Bremen, he was Mayor of Kiel from 2009 to 2012 and then Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein until 2017. After losing a state election, the SPD member withdrew from active politics and went to Brussels for four years, where he became head of the Deutsche Post DHL representative office. In 2021 he moved to the Federal Association of German Postal Service Providers for a good year.
Changes from politicians to companies or associations always cause a stir. Matthias Wissmann (CDU) was Federal Transport Minister in the 1990s, and from 2007 to 2018 he was the top car lobbyist in Germany as President of the Association of the Automotive Industry. The ex-minister of state in the chancellery Eckart von Klaeden (CDU) became Daimler’s chief lobbyist in 2013. And the ex-Greens member of the Bundestag Matthias Berninger is committed to the agrochemical group Bayer.