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Philip Morris International used the e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak to market IQOS heated tobacco
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  • Published on:
    Our original findings and conclusions remain plausible
    • John Ayers, Scientist UCSD
    • Other Contributors:
      • Eric Leas, Scientist
      • ShuHong Zhu, Scientist
      • Mark Dredze, Scientist
      • Joanna Cohen, Scientist


    We thank Dr. Moira Gilchrist (1) for her careful attention to our work (2). Gilchrist argues our principal findings were erroneous and any change in news coverage of IQOS and the e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak were confounded by other Philip Morris International (PMI) media materials and not those specifically discussing EVALI and IQOS (3) which we attributed our findings to. However, a deeper inspection of this argument suggests our original findings and conclusions remain plausible.

    Tobacco Watcher is a dynamic resource with continuous data collection and processing. Thus, the results of analyses on the platform can vary over time. On June 10, 2021 we replicated our analysis. After correcting an error that the PMI’s materials on EVALI and IQOS (3) was initially published on 24 September 2021 (not 25 September) the principal finding is unchanged. News coverage mentioning both “IQOS” and EVALI (i.e., including the terms ‘vaping’ and ‘illness’) reached an all-time high immediately after PMI published materials about EVALI and IQOS on their website. Thirty days prior to PMI posting this material (August 25th through September 23rd) 2.0 news stories per day matched our search compared to 12.8 for the 30 days after their publication (September 24th through October 23rd), with 384 news reports matching our keyword search for the latter period. Our original assertion that there were 14 duplicate articl...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Review of this study suggests its findings are based on a major confounding error


    A review of this study has been published by the target of its criticism, the tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI), via the post-publication review server Qeios [1]

    The main finding of this study, and the allegation raised in its title, is that PMI cynically used an outbreak of lung injuries in the United States (initially but incorrectly attributed to nicotine vaping) to promote its heated tobacco product, iQOS. Heated tobacco products are one alternative to vaping for those looking for a safer alternative to smoking. On 24th September 2019, PMI published an information notice about its products in response to the lung injury outbreak. The authors assert that PMI was trying to gain commercial publicity from a health crisis: a serious allegation. But the allegation appears to be based on a major error by the authors.

    The study used a "fully automated media analysis engine" to count stories that mention iQOS around that time, showing that there were considerably more than usual. On this basis, the authors concluded that PMI's unethical promotional gambit had worked. However, the day after PMI allegedly disreputably sought publicity for iQOS, the company also issued a press release disclosing that merger negotiations with the American tobacco company, Altria, had ceased. PMI and Altria have a joint marketing agreement for iQOS in the United States. The end of merger talks would be big news in the business pre...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    I have no financial ties to tobacco, nicotine or pharmaceutical companies and I am not representing PMI in this response. I have been an advocate for tobacco harm reduction for many years and I believe that heated tobacco products have an important public health role to play as a much safer alternative to cigarettes.
  • Published on:
    Study alleging Philip Morris International used the EVALI outbreak to market IQOS requires substantial methodological revision and further peer review, or retraction
    • Moira Gilchrist, Vice President Strategic and Scientific Communications Philip Morris International


    A brief review of this ‘Industry Watch’ article alleging heated tobacco product advertising through an earned media approach highlights significant methodological errors that are serious enough to invalidate the article’s conclusions, including its title. The authors allege that Philip Morris International (PMI) used the e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak to promote IQOS in September 2019 and the weeks that followed. Using the authors’ own tool (, we replicated their search strategy and revealed several fundamental and concerning errors in the authors’ analysis.

    They report a rise in news stories mentioning IQOS on and after 25th September 2019, and falsely attribute this rise to an article published on our website on 24th September 2019, which they also falsely describe as a “press release”, despite it never being published through a press release distribution service. Our analysis shows that the authors failed to consider several confounding and unrelated events that caused the rise in news coverage of both IQOS and EVALI during the time period in question and which can be found by replicating the authors’ search strategy in

    For example, on 25th September 2019, Philip Morris International (PMI) issued a single press release via Business Wire (1) entitled “Philip Morris International Inc. and Altria Group, Inc. End Merger Discussions” (PMI/Altria Annou...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    Full-time employee of Philip Morris International
  • Published on:
    What did you expect?

    If PMI attempted to profit from the “EVALI” scaremongering they could only do so because of the blatantly dishonest reporting of that issue by federal authorities, activist academics, tobacco control organisations and the media who quote them with question. It was obvious as early as August 2019 that the lung injuries were caused by black market THC cartridges cut with vitamin E acetate and not nicotine containing e-cigarettes and the CDC eventually came to the same conclusion. Yet activists in positions of authority continue to link the injuries with nicotine vaping, thus providing a fertile ground of misinformation in which such marketing campaigns can flourish.

    Conflict of Interest:
    New Nicotine Alliance UK