In the annals of stupid comments, this one has to rank right up there with Bud Selig saying he didn't know anything about steroids in baseball.
Speaking at a shareholders meeting in New York this week, Phillip Morris CEO Louis C. Camilleri said quitting smoking is "not that hard."
According to a report on Gothamist.com, Camilleri was responding to an anti-smoking nurse who said statistics show that tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans and five million people worldwide each year. He said:
We take our responsibility very seriously, and I don't think we get enough recognition for the efforts we make to ensure that there is effective worldwide regulation of a product that is harmful and that is addictive. Nevertheless, whilst it is addictive, it is not that hard to quit. ... There are more previous smokers in America today than current smokers.
Anti-smoking activists wasted no time jumping all over Camilleri's contention.
"(This is the) most irresponsible form of corporate double-speak," Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told Newsday
"Study after study has documented the powerful addiction to cigarettes is one of the most difficult to overcome of any drug anywhere in the world," Myers explained. "It is stunning in the face of overwhelming science for the leader of the world's largest private tobacco company to deny how difficult and addictive cigarettes are."
U.S. Public Health Service statistics show that 45% of smokers try to quit each year -- only 4%-7% are successful.
As for Camilleri, he is a smoker who was quoted in 2009 as saying he once quit smoking for three months when he had a cold.