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Industry marketing of tobacco products on social media: case study of Philip Morris International’s IQOS
  1. Lorien C Abroms1,2,
  2. Christina N Wysota1,2,
  3. Sararat Tosakoon1,
  4. Amal Khayat3,
  5. Zongshuan Duan1,
  6. Yael Bar-Zeev3,
  7. Carla J Berg1,4,
  8. Hagai Levine3
  1. 1 Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
  2. 2 Institute for Data Democracy & Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
  3. 3 Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah, Jerusalem, Israel
  4. 4 George Washington University Cancer Center, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lorien C Abroms, Department of Prevention and Community Health, George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, Washington, DC 20052, USA; lorien{at}


Significance Newer tobacco products might be particularly likely to use social media as they emerge in the global market. Little is known about the official use of social media in marketing heated tobacco products (HTPs). This study examined Philip Morris International’s (PMI) social media marketing globally of its leading HTP, IQOS.

Methods PMI IQOS country-specific official websites were accessed (N=59) in May to September 2022 and social media accounts listed were recorded. Accounts were then coded for their number of posts in the past month and year and for their number of subscribers. Posts on online accounts with at least one past-month post were categorised to describe the post’s function: instructional, general advertising, price promotions or event promotions.

Results Of the 59 country websites, 45 (76.3%) listed at least one social media account; of these, an average of 2.5 accounts (SD=0.8) were listed. Across websites, 111 accounts were identified: 42 Facebook, 23 YouTube, 21 Twitter, 19 Instagram, 2 Telegram, 1 LinkedIn, 1 KakaoTalk, 1 VK and 1 LINE. Across YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, accounts made 2550 past-year posts and had ~490 961 subscribers. Of the 165 past-month posts, 101 (60.1%) functioned as general advertising, 30 (17.9%) instructional, 29 (17.3%) event promotions and 8 (4.8%) price promotions.

Conclusion Social media posts were used to engage consumers with advertising, event promotions, product use instructions and price promotions. The study provides evidence of the company-sponsored official marketing of an HTP via social media globally, underscoring the need for monitoring and tobacco control regulatory efforts in the digital arena.

  • Advertising and Promotion
  • Electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • Harm Reduction
  • Packaging and Labelling
  • Tobacco industry

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data are available in online supplemental appendices 1 and 2.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data are available in online supplemental appendices 1 and 2.

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  • X @lorien_a, @AmalKhayat5

  • Contributors LCA, ST and HL designed the study. CJB and HL obtained grant funding and oversaw the project administration. CNW, AK, ZD, YB-Z and CJB contributed to study design and methodology. LCA, ST, CNW and HL collected and analysed the data and wrote the draft manuscript. All authors reviewed the manuscript and confirmed the approval of the submitted manuscript. LCA served as the guarantor of the study and as such accepts full responsibility for the work and/or the conduct of the study, had access to the data, and controlled the decision to publish.

  • Funding This work was supported by the US National Cancer Institute (R01CA239178-01A1). CJB is also supported by other US National Institutes of Health funding, including the National Cancer Institute (R01CA215155-01A1; R01CA179422-01), the Fogarty International Center (R01TW010664-01), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences/Fogarty (D43ES030927-01) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA054751-01A1).

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  • Competing interests HL had received fees for lectures from Pfizer Israel (distributor of a smoking cessation pharmacotherapy in Israel) in 2017. YBZ had received fees for lectures from Pfizer, Novartis NCH and GSK Consumer Health (distributors of pharmacotherapy in Israel) in the past (2012 to July 2019). LCA receives royalties for the sale of Text2Quit.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.