philip morris iqos e-cigarette vape

Philip Morris is mounting a campaign designed to encourage smokers to kick the habit.

The campaign, Hold My Light, is the first time a tobacco company has launched a smoke-free campaign directly aimed at encouraging UK smokers to give up cigarettes.

It encourages smokers to ask friends and family to pledge small, practical offers of support, such as looking after pets or cooking dinner every night if they commit to giving up smoking for an initial 30 days.

The owner of the Iqos heat-not-burn devices formulated the £2m campaign after Public Health England research found smokers who gave up for 28 days were five times more likely to stop smoking completely. It is not currently allowed to directly advertise Iqos in the UK, but via the new campaign Philip Morris is encouraging smokers to switch to heat-not-burn devices.

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The marketing activity includes a dedicated website, video and advertising campaign targeting two million readers of The Mirror, The Daily Record and big city regional newspapers in print and online.

Health campaigners, including Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) and Cancer Research UK have baulked at the campaign. Cancer Research UK described it as “staggering hypocrisy”.

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at Ash, called it “PR puff”. She said: “A massively profitable global tobacco company is selling the line that they’ve turned over a new leaf in an effort to flog their latest gadgets.

“If they were serious about a smoke-free world they wouldn’t challenge tobacco legislation around the world but instead support regulations that will really help smokers quit and prevent children from taking up smoking. Instead they are putting out press releases and making bold claims about breaking new ground - doesn’t look like there is much new to see here.”

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Philip Morris MD Peter Nixon said the campaign broke new ground, which was an important step in the business ultimately stopping the sale of cigarettes.

“There are more options than ever before for smokers to give up cigarettes but often they don’t realise that alternatives, like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco, are better choices than continuing to smoke,” he explained.

“Our research has shown that smokers want personal support from friends and family if they are to give up cigarettes - and that is what Hold My Light is designed to offer.”