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Snack-Sized Mini-Cigarettes Spark Nationwide Reaction

‘Snack-sized’ mini-cigarettes spark nationwide reaction

A new, “snack-sized” mini-cigarette brand, Marlboro Intense, has recently been introduced to the Turkish market and sparked nationwide reaction after it was reported by several Turkish newspapers that the new cigarette is being tested first in Turkey.

Several anti-tobacco organizations and parliamentary deputies have raised concerns over Marlboro Intense following wide coverage in the news media that the new brand was being tested first on Turkish smokers, who are reportedly being used as guinea pigs for the product set to then be released in other countries. Marlboro Intense was introduced to the Turkish market in November 2007 by Philip Morris, a tobacco company partnered with Turkey’s Sabancı Holding.

The Marlboro Intense, half an inch shorter than the 8.4-centimeter regular Marlboros, is designed to appeal to employees who can only take quick, outdoor cigarette breaks while at work, often in cold weather. The mini-cigarette allows smokers to smoke their cigarette much more quickly than regular sized ones, but still delivers the same amount of nicotine as the full-size version.

Philip Morris is testing the cigarette in Turkey but says it believes the product has worldwide potential as more than 50 countries now have bans on smoking in public places.

The Foundation Combating Smoking Vice President Kıyas Güngör said launching new products in underdeveloped countries was a Philip Morris “tactic.”

“Philip Morris introduces new tobacco products in underdeveloped countries and Turkey is one of them. Turkey offers a good and young market for tobacco products. Cigarette-producing companies make their products attractive with alluring packages. As Turkey takes new steps to reduce the number of people addicted to smoking, tobacco companies devise new plans to avoid losing such a lucrative market,” Güngör was quoted as saying by daily Vatan.

Green Crescent Fight against Alcohol and Cigarette Abuse Chairman Mustafa Necati Özfatura said that Turkey trails in the seventh place in smoking among 200 world countries. In a phone interview with Today’s Zaman, Özfatura said: “Over 120,000 people die in Turkey each year due to a wide variety of diseases caused by smoking. Almost 60 percent of adult males and about 30 percent of adult females are currently addicted to smoking and these figures are increasing rapidly.”

Underlining that the number of smokers has increased by 80 percent in the last few years, Özfatura said it was natural that Philip Morris chose Turkey to launch its new product, as Turkey is a haven for smokers.

“We hope that the new anti-tobacco law will influence smokers to stop smoking,” stated Özfatura.

The Turkish Parliament passed a proposal in early January that expands the former Prevention and Control of Harm from Tobacco Products Law to bring strict public bans on smoking inclusive of workplaces, restaurants and bars.

Under the provisions of the new law television stations will broadcast public service announcements about the harmful effects of smoking and broadcasts that encourage smoking will no longer be allowed. The law will go into effect in May.

Philip Morris’ move to introduce Marlboro Intense in Turkey first has sparked reaction among parliamentarians as well.

Sacid Yıldız, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy and member of the Parliament’s Health Commission, said his party is considering making a motion to bring the issue to Parliament’s agenda.

“Turkey is being used as a pilot country in various domains. The Health Ministry has to inform the public about such new tobacco products. We need to investigate whether Philip Morris has obtained authorization to put such a product on the market,” Yıldız said.

An İstanbul deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Mehmet Domaç, also leveled criticism at Philip Morris for testing a new product in Turkey. “It is wrong to test the cigarette in question in our country. We need to probe whether it was introduced to the Turkish market through legal means,” he noted.

Süleyman Latif Yunusoğlu, a Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy from Trabzon, commented that it was strange for an American company to test one of its new products in Turkey. “Philip Morris is an American company, but it is testing Marlboro Intense in Turkey. Health authorities should take the necessary steps to investigate this issue. The US has taken several incentives to reduce the number of its cigarette-smoking citizens but is testing a new product in Turkey. This is wrong,” Yunusoğlu said

Officials from Philip Morris, on the other hand, complain that press organs have moved to quickly criticize their company without conducting necessary research into the issue.

“Marlboro is an international brand sold in more than 150 countries around the world. Market dynamics and adult smoker preferences in different countries are taken into consideration when offering new variants of Marlboro. It is not the first time that Philip Morris has launched a new product in a country. Having said that, there are many Philip Morris International (PMI) brands and Marlboro variants not sold in Turkey but available in other countries,” said Elvan Özkaya, external relations manager at Philip Morris Turkey.

Philip Morris marketed Marlboro Wides for the first time in Portugal in April 2006, Marlboro Filter + in South Korea in November 2006 and Marlboro Mint Series in Hong Kong in May 2007.

Upon a question over whether Philip Morris is testing Marlboro Intense on Turkish smokers, Özkaya said in a written statement that the product in question is part of the company’s innovation in order to best respond to consumer preferences.

“Like any other PMI product, this cigarette has undergone a significant and rigorous development process to ensure that it does not increase the risks inherent in any other cigarette — and the product conforms with the relevant Turkish regulations, including the tar and nicotine ceilings in place in the country,” she said, adding that this cigarette, like any other, is dangerous and addictive.

Marlboro Intense is also being criticized by several circles for not including a Turkish translation of the word “intense” on the pack. Asked about the reason for this, Özkaya recalled that the Marlboro Intense trademark was registered in April 2007 and added: “Regulations in Turkey do not oblige manufacturers to use trademarks in Turkish for their products. Product specifications are communicated to consumer on the side of the pack with T/N/Co numbers in line with the current regulations. All products are required to get approval from the Tobacco Authority in Turkey before they are launched,” she added.

On the legal dimension of Philip Morris’ initiative to test a new product in the Turkish market, legal expert Ali Odabaşı said it would not be easy for Marlboro Intense consumers to file a lawsuit against Philip Morris if they suffer from health problems in the future.

“It is difficult in our country to prove that a cigarette-smoking individual is innocent and has had health problems related to smoking while unaware of the harms of tobacco products on human health,” he said.

Underlining that he has not heard of any Turkish citizen winning a lawsuit filed for damages suffered due to smoking, Odabaşı said the Turkish justice and indemnity system is not advanced enough to protect the rights of smokers.

“Smokers consume tobacco products though they know their effects on human health. Thus, it is not easy to justify a smoker before the court when he sues against a tobacco company,” he added.


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