(BUSINESS WIRE)–A white paper and survey released today by Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) (NYSE: PM) examine the increasing influence of the Fifth Estate on public discourse. Encompassing a vast and diverse range of independent commentators, social media users, content creators, and online communities, the Fifth Estate poses unprecedented challenges and opportunities for established institutions by empowering individuals and citizen-led movements to drive change.
“The Fifth Estate has become a significant societal force that can be leveraged for good or ill,” commented Dr. Moira Gilchrist, Chief Communications Officer, Philip Morris International. “On the one hand, the digital technologies that underpin it enable everyday people to stand up for what matters to them and help drive broad societal action. On the other, this new power center can favor emotion and ideology over facts, perpetuating polarization and misinformation. The question facing businesses, regulators, and society at large concerns how we can help steer this emerging force in a positive direction and address the valid concerns being expressed.”
Most people already interact with and rely on content generated by the Fifth Estate. According to the international survey conducted for PMI by independent research firm Povaddo—the results of which are presented in the paper, “Rethink Disruption: The Rise of the Fifth Estate”—two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents get news and information from nonmainstream sources.
These sources, the survey shows, impact people’s daily lives. When asked whether they had taken any action based on information or recommendations from Fifth Estate sources, respondents said they “talked to friends or family about something I read” (90 percent), “made an online purchase” (84 percent), “browsed a company’s website” (84 percent), and/or “made an in-store / in-person purchase” (79 percent). Notably, 69 percent reported that they had changed their views about a particular issue based on the information to which they were exposed.
Despite its growing prevalence, the Fifth Estate elicits concerns. Survey respondents stated that individuals and nonmainstream media pose a significant risk in terms of spreading misinformation (59 percent), sharing opinions without evidence (53 percent), and lacking transparency on sourcing (50 percent). Many respondents also highlighted its divisive potential, noting significant risks in terms of enabling the spread of radical ideologies (47 percent), exacerbating societal divisions (44 percent), and fueling cancel culture (40 percent).
“For PMI, embracing the voices of individuals—most vitally, adult smokers—and encouraging a people-centric debate involving policymakers, public health authorities, and civil society is critical to achieving our ambition of a smoke-free future—a future in which cigarettes have been made obsolete,” said Dr. Gilchrist. “The Fifth Estate can accelerate this future by prioritizing accuracy and science-based facts to empower those adults who would otherwise continue to smoke to change to better alternatives.”
As shown in the international survey, most people want governments, regulators, and platform owners to support positive change online by improving law enforcement’s ability to investigate and hold to account those who misuse internet platforms, implementing initiatives to improve transparency, and combating the generation and spread of misinformation. Individuals, too, have a role to play by verifying authenticity before sharing content, insisting on sources that fact-check information, and seeking out a variety of opinions to inform their views.
Read PMI’s latest white paper here.
About the survey
Povaddo conducted the online survey on behalf of PMI between December 6 and 13, 2023. The survey was fielded among 6,048 general population adults aged 21 and older in six countries: Brazil, Italy, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Approximately 1,000 interviews were administered in each country. Data were collected in a balanced way to reflect national population statistics and were not weighted. Results are accurate to a margin of error of ±1 percent at the overall level.
Philip Morris International: Delivering a Smoke-Free Future
Philip Morris International (PMI) is a leading international tobacco company working to deliver a smoke-free future and evolving its portfolio for the long term to include products outside of the tobacco and nicotine sector. The company’s current product portfolio primarily consists of cigarettes and smoke-free products. Since 2008, PMI has invested more than USD 10.5 billion to develop, scientifically substantiate, and commercialize innovative smoke-free products for adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, with the goal of completely ending the sale of cigarettes. This includes the building of world-class scientific assessment capabilities, notably in the areas of pre-clinical systems toxicology, clinical and behavioral research, as well as post-market studies. In November 2022, PMI acquired Swedish Match–a leader in oral nicotine delivery–creating a global smoke-free champion led by the companies’ IQOS and ZYN brands. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized versions of PMI’s IQOS Platform 1 devices and consumables and Swedish Match’s General snus as modified risk tobacco products. As of September 30, 2023, PMI’s smoke-free products were available for sale in 82 markets, and PMI estimates that approximately 19.7 million adults around the world had already switched to IQOS and stopped smoking. Smoke-free products accounted for approximately 36.2 percent of PMI’s total third-quarter 2023 net revenues. With a strong foundation and significant expertise in life sciences, PMI announced in February 2021 its ambition to expand into wellness and healthcare areas and, through its Vectura Fertin Pharma business, aims to enhance life through the delivery of seamless health experiences. For more information, please visit www.pmi.com and www.pmiscience.com.