Big Tobacco Funded Newspaper Advert Under Fire

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Phillip Morris Inc with iffy sales tactics exposed in the media and a huge front page newspaper advert sparking concern from health watchdogs.

However advocacy group the New Nicotine Alliance welcomed the four page cover in yesterday’s Daily Mirror newspaper calling it an “interesting initiative”.

Daily_Mirror_hold my light

The wraparound newspaper ad which cost around £2m features links to a new stop smoking website called Hold My Light which seems to piggyback the aims of the Stoptober campaign.

It’s a Phillip Morris Inc funded site [the brand behind IQOS and Marlboro cigs] and uses info from the NHS Smoke Free website and encourages users to sign up to a mailing list and join the Hold My Light online community.

The site offers ideas how you can stop smoking – help others stop smoking or indeed play a part in getting your community to quit the cancer sticks – the premise is:

Hold My Light is simple:

  • Decide to go smoke-free for 30 days
  • Choose your best way to give up cigarettes
  • Start by creating your profile and inviting your friends to make commitments to help you stay motivated

Hold My Light puts you in control of who you share with.
You decide who sees how you’re doing.

The tagline is “With a little help from your friends” and suggests ‘fun ways’ to help people quit including if you quit I’ll cook dinner for a month – look after your pet while on holiday and even help decorate your living room…

Like I said fun with a capital F…kind of…

Health Charities Unhappy

The site of course links to the parent site Smoke Free Future in which PMI outline their grand plan to stop producing cigarettes some time in the distant future – as well as ways you can quit smoking – with of course a push for visitors to try their Heat Not Burn products.

PMI website
PMI website

However it’s the 4 page advert that’s upset health chiefs with some saying the whole thing is more than a little duplicitous on the part of PMI given the Big Tobacco company still promotes cigarettes outside of the UK.

Cancer Research UK’s George Butterworth – the charity’s tobacco policy manager said:

This is a staggering hypocrisy. The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes.

Meanwhile Deborah Arnott the chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health [ASH] suggested PMI was merely promoting their lit tobacco brands under the guise of harm reduction adding:

The fact of the matter is that it can no longer do that in the UK, we’re a dark market where all advertising, promotion and sponsorship is banned, and cigarettes are in plain packs.

So instead Philip Morris is promoting the company name which is inextricably linked with Marlboro.

The New Nicotine Alliance Welcomes The PMI Funded Advert

However UK advocacy group the New Nicotine Alliance praised the four page Daily Mirror ad saying it “shouldn’t matter who makes safer products.”

The charity said in a large press release:

It is an interesting initiative which has caused some consternation from public health groups who accuse Philip Morris of “stunning hypocrisy”. We can understand the concerns that in other countries the company is resisting tobacco control efforts and is still selling billions of cigarettes globally, but we live in the real world not an idealistic one.

The idea that the tobacco industry can only show its commitment to harm reduction by ceasing to make cigarettes entirely is extremely naïve and has no merit. Any company is obliged to pursue the best interests of its shareholders and investors, so it is understandable that sales of cigarettes will continue until such time as there is appetite in the market for a valid alternative.

It is a core belief of the NNA that the only way to get to that position is to make as many safer alternatives to smoking available to the public and to work towards encouraging innovation in devices which can tempt smokers away from the most harmful form of delivering nicotine. The market needs to change substantially before tobacco companies will be able to stop making cigarettes and we should be realists and accept that.

Like me they don’t find the ‘initiatives’ particularly useful calling them ‘contrived’ – I mean if you quit the fags I’ll decorate your living room is a bit wolly…

They say:

We are not convinced that some of the suggested supportive options for friends of smokers are that tempting – in fact they are rather contrived – but the campaign seems to leave those decisions up to the smoker and their friends and family to choose.

Overall we think it is a bright message and one where we agree with Kevin Barron MP:

“If the tobacco industry is willing to commit to a future based around e-cigarettes and other reduced harm products, we should take them up on the offer and allow Government and Local Authorities to partner with them for the financial and technical help needed to help smokers quit.”

These are strange times indeed as the NNA points out – sure a Big Tobacco company is pushing for folks to quit the cancer sticks…in the UK at least – even if it smacks of lip service…

But advertising is advertising and there’s a real hint of subliminal messaging in pretty much anything PMI does to promote its HNB and new mesh products…

Look as daft as it is you simply can’t advertise tobacco and e-cigarettes in the UK mainstream – to a point – but it’s fair to say they do have a very clever PR machine that seems to be constantly looking for loopholes and pushing the boundaries 😉

iqos vaper expo

As I said in the piece I wrote for the Ashtray Blog – 2018 Vape Predictions – we can expect a run of slick PR tricks from the HNB companies out there…and there’s been a few.

I said at the time:

Expect a rash of slick marketing – convoluted ‘positive’ research papers – and crowds of silver tongued lobbyists wooing politicians to get them ‘on-side’.

I rest my case lol…

Dodgy Tactics From The IQOS PR Machine and Salesmen?

Here’s a strange one – during a chat with Jessica Harding from NNA at last May’s Vaper Expo we were interrupted by a woman who really – and I mean really – wanted to extol the virtues of the IQOS.

Blow me down if she didn’t appear in a whole host of YouTube Expo blogs doing the very same thing using the very same spiel…interesting to say the least…no doubt I’ll be called out for being paranoid or an IQOS conspiracy theorist lol…

A plant or just an over enthusiastic fan? Who knows lol. But looking at the video below ‘stooges’ or super fans wandering around Vaper Expos isn’t to far a stretch…maybe…

And of course as I’ve reported on before cash strapped bricks and mortar vape shops are having incredible cash incentives offered to stock the IQOS and as the Telegraph reported last week – IQOS salesmen [or sales folks or sales people for the PC brigade] were caught bang to rights offering almost pyramid style deals to get a sale!

Read more at the Telegraph.

And don’t forget it was only last July the UK Government issued a stern warning to Phillip Morris Inc after they fell foul of our advertising laws – yeah those laws are daft – but hey the law is the law and what’s right for e-cig firms should be the same for Big Tobacco – level playing field an all that.

Look I really couldn’t care less if PMI want to cover every single newspaper in the country and like the NNA says I really don’t care who’s paying for health reduction – just so long as we can get clear blue water between HNB products and e-cigarettes.

And one thing I am very clear about is having real transparency between any hook-ups between Big Tobacco – Big Pharma and vape companies – that way the market will decide if the devices fail or succeed.

And hey if you’re at Vaper Expo this weekend and are approached in the bar or wherever by strangers gushing on about IQOS…do let me know 😉

Neil Humber
I began vaping in 2012 and found it easy to give up a 40 per day roll-up habit! DTL: Lost Vape DNA75C BF - Dead Rabbit SQ - MTL: JacVapour Sandstorm DNA 75 + Augvape Merlin Nano RTA...Daily set-up Lost Vape DNA 250c and Geekvape Zeus X I'm a former journalist and now a writer and author.. I'm an Army veteran - adore dogs and never happier than with a good book on a beach.

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