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Big Tobacco criticised for ‘coronavirus publicity stunt’ after donating ventilators

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Brazil Sues Big Tobacco Over Compensation for Tobacco-Related Diseases

The world’s largest tobacco companies, British American Tobacco Plc (BAT) and Philip Morris International (PMI), have until this month to defend themselves in a lawsuit demanding compensation for tobacco-related diseases.

https://www.vapingpost.com/2020/03/24/brazil-sues-big-tobacco-over-compensation-for-tobacco-related-diseases/

Last year, the Brazilian solicitor general’s office sent subpoenas to Souza Cruz Ltda, Philip Morris Brasil Industria e Comercio Ltda and Philip Morris Brasil SA. These tobacco companies, who produce 90% of the cigarettes sold in Brazil, refused to receive them.
The tobacco companies claimed that they are only subsidiaries and that notifications had to be sent directly to their parent companies in the UK and the US. However, the federal judge hearing the case in Porto Alegre, Graziela Bündchen, ruled that these companies are the operational wings of the parent companies and are therefore fully capable of relaying the notifications to their head offices.

To this effect, last month she gave them 30 days to present their defenses. The lawsuit was heralded as historic by groups advocating for reduced tobacco consumption, such as the Alliance to Control Smoking (ACT). “It is very important that international headquarters are also held accountable,” said ACT legal director Adriana Carvalho. “They profit from the business in Brazil and have always exercised power of control over their Brazilian units.”

Big tobacco and loopholes

Meanwhile, a report published in the British Medical Journal’s BMJ Open publication a few months back, had pointed out that the world’s major tobacco companies have adopted subtle techniques, to bypass plain packaging regulations and make their packets more recognizable.

Written by academics at the University of Bath, the report is drawing attention to the fact that the world’s major tobacco companies have adopted subtle marketing techniques in order to replace traditional cigarette branding, which in 2016 was banned across the UK. In fact, one of the MPs who had devised the plain packaging legislation, is urging ministers to review the measure in order to eliminate loopholes as detailed in the report.

The report’s lead author, Dr Karen Evans-Reeves, said the tobacco industry is “engaged in activities that undermined and continue to undermine the legislation.” She added that lawmakers should keep in mind that tobacco companies will always try to find loopholes.

“Major tobacco companies will always try to find a way to market their products. Based on the number of innovations we found in this study, we would encourage all governments considering implementing plain packaging legislation to consider how tobacco companies have adapted to the legislation in other countries and where possible, close any remaining loopholes.”

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The truth behind Philip Morris’ cigarette-free future

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Inside the Philip Morris campaign to ‘normalize’ a tobacco device

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philipmorris-international-iqos-insig/inside-the-philip-morris-campaign-to-normalize-a-tobacco-device-idUSKBN20F1Q7

(Reuters) – At Germany’s Bambi Awards for the media industry in November, celebrities posed for red-carpet photos against a backdrop of established luxury brands. Alongside the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Swiss watchmaker Chopard was a newer name: IQOS, a “reduced risk” heated-tobacco device sold by cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc.

Across Europe, Asia and South America, the tobacco firm has affixed the IQOS brand to music festivals and art exhibits. The company also markets through IQOS lounges at mountainside resorts in the Pyrenees and in fashionable neighborhoods of Rome. Throughout Europe, it has partnered with “IQOS friendly” bars and restaurants – closed to cigarettes but open to IQOS.

Such promotions are part of a wide-ranging “normalization” strategy by Philip Morris (PM.N) to scrub its image as a purveyor of cancer-causing cigarettes and present its new smoking alternatives as youthful, upscale lifestyle products, according to a ten-month study by tobacco researchers at Stanford University, who shared it exclusively with Reuters before its release on Friday. The marketing strategy mimics that of tobacco companies in the mid-20th century, when they started associating cigarettes with Hollywood and high society.

“Philip Morris, as a company name, is somewhat of a pariah,” said Robert Jackler, a professor who led the study and heads Stanford’s Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising. “IQOS is an attempt to sanitize their product line.”

The Stanford researchers said their study was spurred in part by a May 2019 Reuters investigation that found Philip Morris had used young online personalities, including a 21-year-old woman in Russia, to promote IQOS. The company’s internal marketing standards prohibit it from using youth-oriented celebrities or “models who are or appear to be under the age of 25.” The Reuters report prompted the company to acknowledge it had violated its own policy and to suspend its use of social media influencers.

The Stanford study found that, although the company suspended its “most visible” social-media influencer programs, IQOS marketing continues to stray substantially from its corporate standards on youth-oriented marketing.

“Its use of youth-oriented social media channels, trendy pop music festivals and celebrity influencers are mis-aligned with their commitment to exclusive ‘adult smoker’ targeting,” the Stanford report concluded.

Philip Morris declined to answer detailed questions from Reuters on its IQOS marketing strategy and the Stanford findings, saying it did not have access to the full report. “However, we doubt that there is anything PMI could say or do that Dr. Jackler, and others who criticize our scientific commitment and smoke-free vision, would ever find satisfactory.”

The IQOS device is central to the firm’s efforts to overhaul its image through such initiatives as its “unsmoke” campaign, which promotes such “smoke-free” alternatives as a way to accelerate the shift away from cigarettes. The device heats up but does not burn packages of ground-up tobacco, which resemble small cigarettes, to create a nicotine-filled aerosol that is similar to that produced by e-cigarettes, which heat flavored liquid nicotine.

At this year’s Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland – a gathering of some of the world’s richest people – Philip Morris set up an “Unsmoke your mind” lounge, where panelists argued against regulations preventing “truth in marketing” by tobacco firms looking to promote smoking alternatives.

IQOS is sold in about 50 countries, including the United States through a partnership with U.S. Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. The two companies pledged to regulators that they would market the device only to adult smokers, showing sample advertisements of adults conservatively dressed in business attire.

But in other markets across the world, the Stanford study said, Philip Morris uses “coaches” and “ambassadors” to market IQOS. In Romania and Russia, employment agencies recruit attractive women as young as 19 to market IQOS, according to job postings mentioned in the Stanford report and reviewed by Reuters.

Instagram postings for Be Like Me, a Romanian marketing agency, show young women posing with the IQOS device in recent months, often wearing robe-like uniforms in malls. The Instagram account for RBT Group, a staffing agency in Russia that markets IQOS, similarly shows photos of attractive young women in front of IQOS signs or posing with other “coaches.”

Be Like Me and RBT Group could not be reached for comment.

Other Instagram accounts with the “IQOS” name, including one called “iqostyle.arm,” based in Armenia, continue to show young women posing with the IQOS in what appear to be professional photographs. One photo on that account from last July – two months after Philip Morris said it had suspended all influencer marketing – showed Nika Shuvalova, a 22-year-old Ukrainian model, posing in a swimsuit on a boat with an IQOS.

Shuvalova could not be reached for comment.

A message sent to the “iqostyle.arm” Instagram account was returned by someone calling themselves Tiko, who said the IQOS postings were a “hobby” and that he had not been paid by Philip Morris.

BIG BET ON IQOS AND ‘NORMALIZATION’
The stakes for Philip Morris are huge: The company invested $6 billion in developing “smoke-free” products such as IQOS in hopes of staving off a trend of declining global cigarette sales. In 2018, company CEO Andre Calantzopoulos told shareholders that it hoped to receive about 40% of its revenue – nearly $20 billion – from “reduced risk” products by 2025.

Internal Philip Morris documents underscore the importance of its larger strategy: “Make ‘normalization’ a PMI priority and imbed this mindset into the organization,” read an internal company document from 2014, reviewed by Reuters as part of a 2017 investigation. The document also cited “the threats posed by PMI/industry de-normalization” – such as lobbying bans and exclusions from international treaties and trade agreements – “and the need to reverse this trend to drive future growth.”

The Stanford researchers pointed to wide-ranging company efforts to associate IQOS with fashion, art and popular culture in a way that cigarette brands such as Marlboro have been unable to do, given changing social attitudes and laws around the world that prohibit such advertising and promotions.

IQOS has been present at events such as Germany’s Bambi Awards – which honor stars in TV and film, sports, art and music – as well as that country’s Playboy Playmate of the Year Awards.

Philip Morris worked with British sculptor Alex Chinneck on a dramatic installation at the 2019 Milan Design Week. The work depicted the facade of an old, two-story building being unzipped like a pair of jeans – meant to signify the IQOS “notion of opening the future,” the sculptor said in an interview with FAD magazine. A representative of Chinneck confirmed the partnership.

The company also worked with distinguished industrial designer Karim Rashid to create an installation at the previous year’s Milan Design Week. In an interview with website fashionrepublik.com, Rashid described his installation, showing two faces meeting one another, as similar to the IQOS, which he called “an intimate device that speaks to forward-thinking and original expression.” A representative of Rashid said he was unavailable for an interview on Thursday.

GETTING TOBACCO BACK INTO RESTAURANTS, BARS
The company has also sought to distinguish IQOS from smoking through partnerships with restaurants, bars and salons who designate themselves as “IQOS friendly” spaces, where cigarettes are banned but the IQOS device is allowed. The Stanford researchers found evidence of hundreds of “IQOS friendly” establishments in places such as the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Romania and Japan.

Philip Morris did not respond to questions about its business relationships with the establishments that promote the device and display its branding.

The Stanford researchers and other experts say such policies undermine public smoking laws and encourage dual use of cigarettes and alternative devices. Many users will continue smoking outdoors, but turn to e-cigarettes or IQOS where they are permitted indoors. Such switching can “deepen nicotine addiction and make cessation less probable,” the Stanford report said.

The brand also had a presence at a Tel Aviv University student music festival last year – where the minimum age for entrance was 16, and where a video showed young IQOS staff at a pop-up booth.

At a launch party for IQOS in Albania last year, a performer in an elaborate white sequined dress did an interpretive dance on stage with an IQOS, while another performer attached to wires performed acrobatic moves in the air while playing a violin.

“They’re trying very hard to resurrect the glory era of smoking, where it was glamorous and sophisticated and stylish,” Jackler said. “It’s about associating it with all the good things in life.”

Spinning a New Tobacco Industry

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Philip Morris suspends social media campaign after Reuters exposes young ‘influencers’

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philipmorris-ecigs-instagram-exclusiv/exclusive-philip-morris-suspends-social-media-campaign-after-reuters-exposes-young-influencers-idUSKCN1SH02K

(Reuters) – Cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc has suspended a global social media marketing campaign in response to Reuters inquiries into the company’s use of young online personalities to sell its new “heated tobacco” device, including a 21-year-old woman in Russia.

https://www.reuters.com/video/?videoId=RCV006PLP&jwsource=cl

The company’s internal “marketing standards” prohibit it from promoting tobacco products with youth-oriented celebrities or “models who are or appear to be under the age of 25.”

The company told Reuters of the decision late Friday, saying it had launched an internal investigation into marketing posts and photographs that Reuters sent to the company for comment earlier this week.

They included a paid post plugging the tobacco product by social media “influencer” Alina Tapilina in Moscow – who listed her age as 21 on Instagram – alongside often seductive photos of herself drinking wine, swimming and posing with little clothing in luxurious settings.

“We have taken the decision to suspend all of our product-related digital influencer actions globally,” the company told Reuters. “Whilst the influencer in question is a legal age adult smoker, she is under 25 and our guidance called for influencers to be 25+ years of age. This was a clear breach of that guidance.”

“No laws were broken,” the company told Reuters. “However, we set high standards for ourselves and these facts do not excuse our failure to meet those standards in this instance.”

The company added: “We were deeply disappointed to discover this breach and are grateful that it was brought to our attention.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month decided it would allow sales of the IQOS device in the United States after a two-year review process in which Philip Morris repeatedly assured the regulator that it would warn young people away from the product.

The FDA declined to comment Friday evening on Philip Morris’s decision to suspend the marketing campaign. The agency earlier said it would “keep a close watch on … how the company is marketing its products.”

While most of the social media influencers hired by Philip Morris overseas did not list their ages on Instagram, a Reuters review of the firm’s social media marketing of IQOS in Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Russia and Romania shows that Tapilina’s online persona was typical of what the company called its social media “ambassadors” for the device – rail-thin young women who revel in the high life.

The company did not directly respond to additional questions Friday night regarding the intended audience for its digital influencer campaigns.

Many of the messages contained the hashtag “#IQOSambassador,” tying them into a network of social media influencers that the international tobacco giant has relied on to brand the IQOS as a safer alternative to cigarettes and a sexy fashion accessory.

“I finally have the new IQOS 3, and I can confidently say yes to change … the level of harmful substances is on average about 90 percent lower than in smoke,” Tapilina wrote in an April post. “You haven’t yet switched to IQOS?”

One Romanian IQOS marketer is 25 years old, according to a separate actress biography, but did not list her age on Instagram. Tapilina and nine other IQOS marketers did not respond to requests for comment.

Philip Morris, in its statement to Reuters, said its suspension of the social marketing campaign is “concrete proof” of its “conviction to achieve a smoke-free world through socially responsible practices.”

Matthew Myers, president of The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, had a different take upon hearing of the suspension Friday night. The advocacy group collected some of the IQOS marketing images reviewed by Reuters.

Philip Morris, he said, “is changing their behavior only when caught red-handed.”

The company, Myers said, has historically been “the single most successful across the globe in making cigarettes fashionable to young people.”

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!
Over the past year, Philip Morris has increasingly publicized its “mission” to prevent young people from using tobacco products. Last month, it issued a release calling on “all tobacco and e-cigarette companies to do their part to guard against youth nicotine use.”

“Let me be clear: We at Philip Morris International do not, and will not, market or sell our products to youth,” CEO André Calantzopoulos said during a speech in Boston earlier this month. “For Philip Morris International, age matters.”

When Philip Morris submitted marketing plans with an FDA application for IQOS in 2017, its sample advertisements featured models appearing at least a decade older and wearing modest, professional clothes.

That application, which is still pending before the FDA, seeks approval to market the IQOS as less harmful than smoking and outlines company plans to ensure it doesn’t market the device to “non-intended audiences.” The device heats up but does not burn packages of ground-up tobacco, which resemble small cigarettes, to create a nicotine-filled aerosol.

In Japan, the intended audience for IQOS marketing includes the Instagram followers of Ayame Tachibana, a 27-year-old DJ and model. In one post, she shows off a Valentine’s Day message for the IQOS device, lovingly scrawled with multicolored pens.

“Happy Valentine IQOS. Love you sooo much!” reads the Instagram post from February.

Alina Eremia, a Romanian actress and singer, holds a gold-colored IQOS in front of a Christmas tree.

“My list of resolutions contains 95% fewer moments without a smile,” says Eremia, who is 25 according to her actress biography on multiple movie and celebrity information websites.

Philip Morris says the IQOS – an acronym for “I quit ordinary smoking” – contains up to 95 percent fewer toxic compounds than cigarettes.

Vlad Parvulescu, a manager for Eremia, confirmed she had been hired to promote IQOS and said she had been contacted by a Romanian public relations agency. He did not respond to additional questions about the financial arrangement.

Marketing deals between companies and social media influencers vary widely, according to industry experts. But typically a company will work through third-party public relations or advertising firms that have relationships with online personalities. Compensation typically ranges from $20 to $25,000 or more for each post.

Corporations have become increasingly sophisticated in how they approach their social media campaigns in the past two years, said Joe Gagliese, co-founder of Viral Nation, a marketing and talent agency that works with influencers.

He once had to explain the basic concept of an “influencer” in pitch meetings. Now, companies approach him with “tailor-made decision briefs saying, ‘this is exactly what we want.’”

Reuters reviewed dozens of social media posts featuring the IQOS device. Many included hashtags such as #IQOSAmbassador, #paidad, and #notriskfree, indicating that they are IQOS marketing posts.

Many of the Instagram influencers featuring the products had tens of thousands of followers, and a few had more than a million.

VIRAL CAMPAIGNS, BLURRED LINES
Devices such as IQOS and Juul hold potential as a way for cigarette smokers to transition to less harmful nicotine products, but some public health advocates worry the sleek new devices are addicting young people who would have never smoked cigarettes. Among traditional cigarette smokers, 90 percent start smoking before the age of 18, according to federal data.

Philip Morris said there have been “no reports” of “worrisome levels” of unintended use of IQOS.

As part of the FDA review process, Philip Morris pledged to market only to adult cigarette smokers once it begins selling IQOS this summer through a partnership with Altria Group Inc, which sells Marlboro cigarettes in the U.S. IQOS delivers about the same level of nicotine as a traditional cigarette.

Altria did not respond to requests for comment.

Social media marketing has become a flashpoint in the debate over regulation of tobacco products, particularly the newest generation of products such as the wildly popular Juul e-cigarettes.

Some of Juul’s early social media and YouTube marketing included images of attractive young people, particularly at a 2015 product launch party. Twitter images from that time on Juul’s official account featured sensual images of a young woman breathing out Juul vapor in a group, next to the slogan, “Share a #Juulmoment.”

Those early campaigns sparked an explosion of video and photo posts from young people showing themselves using the product at school or with friends, often under the hashtags #doit4juul or #juullife. Juul Labs Inc has since said it stopped using social media influencers and requires anyone in its ads to be a former cigarette smoker older than 35.

Juul Labs Inc said in a statement it recognizes that “some of our earliest marketing initiatives did not fully reflect the goal of our company,” which it describes as helping cigarette smokers transition to its products.

“As a young company, we learned from our experiences and instituted changes to help ensure that we are only reaching current adult smokers,” the company said.

CONDITIONAL APPROVAL
U.S. laws governing tobacco advertising – which is banned on radio and television – were drawn up long before social media and digital advertising became a dominant force in consumer marketing.

Although no current state or federal law restricts tobacco advertising on the Internet – including for e-cigarettes and devices such as IQOS – the FDA can use its authority over new devices to assert sweeping control over a company’s marketing.

As a condition for allowing the device to be sold, the FDA is requiring Philip Morris to provide detailed analyses of the age ranges of consumers it reaches through digital advertising. Philip Morris is also required to submit any new advertising campaigns, including digital and social media efforts, to the FDA at least 30 days before it plans to launch them.

Any paid influencers promoting the product also must disclose “any relationships between you and entities that create labeling for, advertise, market, and/or promote the products, on your behalf, or at your direction.”

Those rules aim to restrict youth access to tobacco marketing, the FDA said in a statement, “especially in shared digital properties such as social media sites.”

THE CANADIAN EXAMPLE: TOBACCO COMPANIES CONVICTED OF CONTRABAND

In Canada, in 2008 and 2010, the three major tobacco companies were convicted of contraband and entered civil settlements with federal and provincial governments. The convictions followed guilty pleas and resulted in fines of C$525 million, the largest in Canadian history. Civil payments totalled C$1.175 billion, with fines and civil payments together totalling C$1.7 billion (US$1.3 billion).

These outcomes arose from actions in the 1990s when the three major tobacco companies in Canada exported vast quantities of Canadian made and branded cigarettes tax-exempt to the U.S., knowing that these cigarettes would return to Canada illegally as contraband. The result was that an estimated 25-30 per cent of the Canadian market in 1993 was contraband. At the time, the companies claimed that they were not doing anything illegal.

The contraband situation prompted the federal government and 5 of 10 provincial governments in 1994 to reduce tobacco tax rates (the rates were not fully restored until 2002) . This had a serious adverse impact on smoking prevalence trends, especially among youth. Moreover, government tobacco tax revenue decreased substantially following the reduction in tax rates.

Eventually there were criminal investigations, including Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) searches and document seizures at tobacco company offices. The three companies that were convicted and entered civil settlements were Imperial Tobacco Canada (British American Tobacco subsidiary); Rothmans, Benson & Hedges (Philip Morris International subsidiary); and JTI-Macdonald (now a Japan Tobacco International subsidiary, but previously, in the 1990s as RJR-Macdonald, an R.J. Reynolds subsidiary). Also, Northern Brands International, a U.S. subsidiary of R.J. Reynolds, was convicted in both Canadian and US courts.

Governments recovered only a small percentage of the total revenue lost. In subsequent court filings, federal and provincial governments estimated that more than C$10 billion was forgone. Adding in the lower revenue following the tax rollback, the forgone revenue would be much, much higher.

The Canadian experience shows not only the importance of high tobacco taxes and contraband prevention, but also demonstrates that the tobacco industry has engaged in illicit trade on a massive scale and cannot be trusted.

Rob Cunningham, Canadian Cancer Society