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Source: PMI

Marlboro maker Philip Morris has accused the Department of Health of “spreading misinformation” about heated tobacco products after a social media post warning that “all forms of tobacco are harmful”.

The tobacco giant said a tweet by the department last week – which was posted in a thread of ‘myths’ about vaping and tobacco – contained “false and misleading statements” and risked driving consumers back to cigarettes or dissuading current smokers from making the switch to alternatives.

“What hope do adult smokers have when seeking out accurate information on smoke-free products, if it’s the government that’s spreading misinformation?” said Moira Gilchrist, chief communications officer of Philip Morris International, while sharing her letter to health secretary Victoria Atkins.

The post states that: “All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no evidence that heated tobacco products are effective for helping people to quit smoking” alongside a graphic calling out heated tobacco being both safe and an effective quitting tool as a “myth”.

“Laboratory studies show clear evidence of toxicity from heated tobacco products. Unlike vapes, there is no evidence they are effective for helping people to quit smoking,” the post continues, citing a 2017 report by the Committee on Toxicity.

In her letter, Gilchrist says such statements “distort the scientific evidence base” which “seriously misleads the public”.

Nevertheless, Gilchrist notes heated tobacco products are “not risk-free”. “We have never claimed HTPs are ‘safe’, nor have we claimed a total absence of ‘toxicity’,” she writes. “Although it’s true that ‘all forms of tobacco are harmful’ it’s not true and is misleading to imply that all forms of tobacco are equally harmful.”

A Public Health England report in 2018 said that available evidence suggested that heated tobacco products “may be considerably less harmful than tobacco cigarettes” but “more harmful than e-cigarettes”.

Philip Morris is working to boost cigarette smoker take-up of its Iqos heated tobacco range – which recently surpassed Marlboro in total global net revenues – in the UK. This week it launched a online engagement platform for convenience retailers called Heatwave Open.


Retailers can use the platform to order Iqos Iluma devices and Terea – the tobacco sticks used exclusively with the device – alongside PML’s broader range of smoke-free products. The platform also offers educational tools, reward schemes and a “gamification feature” offering instant rewards upon completion of quizzes and tasks.

Silviu Miron, head of commercial planning UK and Ireland at Philip Morris, said the UK market was at a “critical juncture” for heated tobacco products.

“A significant market evolution is well underway, where smoke-free products are overtaking traditional alternatives. Heatwave Open equips retailers with the tools, resources, and products needed not only to navigate this shift but also to thrive in the emerging smoke-free era,” he said.