Big Tobacco Proves Once Again They’ll Do Anything To Take Over Vaping

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Philip Morris International has shut down a massive social media campaign after being accused of breaking protocol by using young influencers to promote their Heat-not-Burn device.

Despite the last 30 plus years of intense smoking cessation education, tobacco use still kills more people every year than any other preventable cause. Making matters worse, for years before the general public knew the dangers of smoking, Big Tobacco companies worked tirelessly to suppress the truth. Luckily things have finally begun to head in the right direction, especially since the advent of modern vaping. These harm reduction and smoking cessation tools first hit the scene around ten years ago, and have since become an integral part of life for many former smokers. Unfortunately, Big Tobacco appears to see the writing on the wall for their industry, and have begun the process of jumping ship to the vaping industry by releasing their own take on vaping with heat not burn devices.

Big Tobacco’s presence in the vaping industry has been growing over the last couple of years, especially abroad where markets like Japan have made heat not burn devices quite popular. However, it doesn’t seem like this change of industry has changed the character of the people who run these Big Tobacco companies, as Philip Morris International recently shut down a massive social media marketing campaign after it was discovered they broke their own protocol and hired young influencers to promote their iQOS heat not burn product. This is as clear an indication as any that companies like PMI are willing to do anything they can to steal market share away from independent vaping companies.

Caught Red Handed

While it’s far from a secret that most Big Tobacco companies eventually plan to set up shop in the vaping industry full time, few have been as blatant about it as Philip Morris International. For several years now they’ve gone on the record to say they are actively planning for a future in which they don’t sell combustible cigarettes at all. This push recently culminated in their iQOS device being approved for sale in the US by the FDA. A separate proposal to allow PMI to market the device as a safer alternative to smoking is still being considered by the FDA, something which has many vapers furious. It seems that the tobacco giant is starting to get cocky, as Reuters recently reported that PMI was faced to end a social media campaign in shame after breaking their own company policy regarding the age of paid influencers.

Philip Morris International guidelines state that any paid spokespeople must not only be over the age of 25 but also clearly appear so. That’s why they were called out after paying Russian influencer Alina Tapilina, whose age is listed as 21 in her profile, to promote their iQOS. Several other profiles of young popular influencers were also questioned, but most didn’t list an age. After taking the embarrassing hit, PMI was quick to remove any posts related to the campaign. However, they also defended their actions, claiming “no laws were broken.”

Vaping Vs. HnB

Something that often gets lost in the vaping debate is the difference between e-liquid vapor and heat not burn vapor. While not a lot is known about the long-term effects of vaping, much less is known about heat not burn vapor, even in the short term. Regardless, PMI is more than happy to tie their new product to vaping, especially given the growing pile of peer-reviewed evidence which strongly supports the harm reduction and smoking cessation value of vaping. We’ve known since at least 2015 that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking thanks to a report by Public Health England. We’ve gotten similar results over the last five years, including a study which just recently concluded the toxicants in e-liquid vapor are 93% lower than cigarette smoke. But to understand the full extent of the harm reduction value, you have to read the report from the Journal of Aerosol Sciences which concluded the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is 57,000 times lower than a demographically similar smoker.

Looking past the harm reduction value and there’s still a lot of reason to support e-cigarettes. One of the most common concerns about vaping is the impact it’s having on teens, regardless of the value they provide. The worry is that acceptance of vaping is directly leading more teens into a life of smoking. Luckily a report by Action on Smoking and Health of over 60,000 students concluded only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens are ever vaping more than a few times. This means even less could possibly be ending up a smoker because of vaping.

Implications

It should be more than clear to anyone paying attention that companies like Philip Morris International are plotting to take over vaping as soon as cigarettes are no longer profitable. While some are unfazed by this, others question the logic in allowing an industry which knowingly misled their customers for decades to simply set up shop in the very industry that finally disrupted their dominance. This story is also a clear indication Big Tobacco companies are more than willing to do whatever it takes, including breaking their own rules, in the name of higher profits. The vaping community has a crucial choice to make over the coming months and years, but I, for one, won’t stand by and let Big Tobacco take over vaping without a fight.

Does it surprise you PMI broke their own guidelines? Do you believe they did it on purpose and were just waiting to be called out? What’s the best way to protect the independent vaping industry? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.

Jimmy, lover, blogger, vaper and ex-smoker. I’ve been blogging about and supporting Vaping since 2009. They changed my life and I think history will show them as one of the most significant public health invention of the 21st century.

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