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A Philip Morris advertisement for its heated tobacco product IQOS sets a troubling precedent
  1. Eric C Leas1,2,
  2. Joanna E Cohen3,
  3. John W Ayers2,4
  1. 1Division of Health Policy, Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California San Diego, School of Medicine, La Jolla, California, USA
  2. 2The Center for Data Driven Health at Qualcomm Institute, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States
  3. 3Institute for Global Tobacco Control, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  4. 4Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States
  1. Correspondence to Dr Eric C Leas, Division of Health Policy, Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California: San Diego, School of Medicine, University of California: San Diego, La Jolla, CA 94304-1334, USA; ecleas{at}

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Philip Morris was allowed to market its IQOS brand of heated (or 'heat-not-burn') tobacco in the USA in April 2019 after receiving a marketing order from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requiring it to follow existing tobacco marketing regulations, as well as new reporting requirements that mandate Philip Morris ensures consumers are properly informed about the dangers of IQOS and minors are not targeted.1 However, as early as August 2019, Philip Morris already used covert marketing strategies that implied the FDA endorsed its product, violated FDA tobacco product regulations and circumvented the terms of the media channel it advertised on.

All of these concerns are illustrated in a single advertisement (figure 1A). A Google search for ‘heat not burn’ on 1 August 2019 returned as the first result an advertisement entitled ‘What is heat-not-burn? | Discover the technology | Alternatives to smoking’ that promoted a link to, a subsidiary of Philip Morris (figure 1A). A clickthrough to the advertised website displayed a banner asking visitors to accept that the ‘purpose of the site [was] not [for] advertising or marketing’ (figure 1B), yet Philip Morris was buying consumer-facing advertisements to promote this website. On accepting the statement, users entered the site which focused on Philip Morris-conducted research and made the claim that IQOS …

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the drafting and critical revision of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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