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Creating a market for IQOS: analysis of Philip Morris’ strategy to introduce heated tobacco products to the Australian consumer market
  1. Christina Watts1,2,
  2. Suzan Burton3,
  3. Becky Freeman1
  1. 1Prevention Research Collaboration, Sydney School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Cancer Prevention and Advocacy Division, Cancer Council New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3School of Business, Western Sydney University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Christina Watts, Prevention Research Collaboration, Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; christina.watts{at}sydney.edu.au

Abstract

Background Philip Morris International has made efforts to expand the sale of its heated tobacco product, IQOS, into new domestic markets globally. In Australia, where heated tobacco products are prohibited, the company recently attempted to overturn Australian legislation in order to permit their sale. In light of this recent move, this study presents a case study of the company’s strategies to legalise and distribute IQOS in the Australian market.

Methods To assess Philip Morris’ lobbying activities and corporate strategies, a case study approach was used by triangulating data from three sources: interviews with former Philip Morris employees, news articles reporting Philip Morris’ lobbying activities or plans for IQOS in Australia, and submissions to relevant government inquiries and reviews from 2015 to 2020.

Results Philip Morris has actively lobbied Australian policy-makers to overturn bans on nicotine-containing products. Information obtained from key informants and Philip Morris’ government submissions indicates that the company’s goal is for heated tobacco products in Australia to be regulated in a new product category, exempt from tobacco control laws. Informants revealed that Philip Morris was also working to establish a network of upmarket pubs, clubs and bars where they could sell IQOS once legalisation was achieved.

Conclusions Philip Morris has strongly lobbied the Australian government to legalise heated tobacco products, while simultaneously making plans to sell IQOS at young adult-friendly premises such as bars, clubs and pubs if its proposed legislative changes are made. This case study provides valuable insights for other countries where Philip Morris may be replicating similar strategies to weaken tobacco control legislation.

  • public policy
  • tobacco industry
  • media
  • surveillance and monitoring
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Footnotes

  • Twitter @WattsChrissy90, @DrBFreeman

  • Contributors CW and BF conceptualised and designed the study. CW collected, analysed and interpreted the data. CW prepared the first draft and edited the manuscript. SB and BF assisted with data interpretation and provided feedback on the manuscript. All authors reviewed and approved the final 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 CW reports being employed by Cancer Council New South Wales during the conduct of the study. SB reports receiving funding for a project on the marketing of e-cigarettes for Heart Foundation NSW (2018) and funding for a project on media discussion of e-cigarettes for Heart Foundation NSW (2019). BF reports being a member of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Electronic Cigarettes Working Committee (May 2020), receiving consultancy payment for e-cigarette policy review for the NSW National Heart Foundation (December 2019), receiving reimbursement for travel expenses to attend the Oceania Tobacco Control Conference (2017) to present on e-cigarettes and cessation and the National Taiwan University for presenting on e-cigarette regulation (2016), providing opinion (unpaid) at the Australian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport public hearing into the Use and Marketing of Electronic Cigarettes and Personal Vaporisers (8 September 2017) and leading a contract on e-cigarette regulation in Australia for the Commonwealth Department of Health (2016).

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for the study was provided by The University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee.

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

  • Data availability statement Data from key informant interviews is unavailable for sharing due to ethical requirements. News articles and documents relating to government inquiries and reviews that were included in the study are publicly available online or available upon request.

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