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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
  1. John W Ayers1,2,
  2. Eric C Leas2,3,
  3. Mark Dredze4,
  4. Theodore L Caputi5,
  5. Shu-Hong Zhu3,
  6. Joanna E Cohen6
  1. 1Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  2. 2Center for Data Driven Health at the Qualcomm Institute, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  3. 3Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  4. 4Department of Computer Science, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  5. 5Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  6. 6Institute for Global Tobacco Control, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr John W Ayers, Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA; ayers.john.w{at}gmail.com

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25 July 2021 will mark the second anniversary1 of the e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak.2 The concerns raised and news media attention focused on EVALI created a fertile environment for the tobacco industry to promote their e-cigarette alternatives,1 3 but this has not been studied.

One such product is Philip Morris International’s (PMI) heated tobacco product: ‘IQOS’.4 5 To assess how PMI promoted IQOS in the news during EVALI, we used ‘Tobacco Watcher’ (www.tobaccowatcher.org), a fully automated and publicly available tobacco media analysis engine that warehouses news from more than 500 000+ sources. We plotted trends in news stories mentioning ‘IQOS’ finding the largest number of stories mentioning IQOS occurred on 25 September 2019, with 261 articles, more than double the next highest day previously recorded.

While investigating this anomaly we discovered an official PMI press release entitled ‘Lung illnesses associated with use of vaping products in the US’ was published the same day.6 In the release (see online supplemental material), PMI recounted the EVALI outbreak beginning: ‘Skepticism and fear around vaping has emerged following the cases of respiratory illness and deaths in the US associated with the use of e-cigarettes.’ PMI then contrasted this against their IQOS heated tobacco product, writing ‘on April 30 2019, the FDA authorized IQOS for sale in the US, finding that marketing of the product would be ‘appropriate for the protection of public health’’ (quotes used in the original release).

Supplemental material

[tobaccocontrol-2021-056661supp001.pdf]

According to Tobacco Watcher, the original PMI press release was republished (including …

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Footnotes

  • Twitter @TheodoreCaputi

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the drafting and revising of the work.

  • Funding This work was supported by funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

  • Disclaimer The funders played no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; preparation, review or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

  • Competing interests JWA owns equity positions in Health Watcher and Good Analytics. ECL has received consulting fees from Health Watcher and Good Analytics. MD holds equity in Good Analytics and has received consulting fees from Bloomberg LP. TLC received fees from Good Analytics and holds equity in Data Science Solutions. JWA, JEC and MD are the creators of tobaccowatcher.org, a project of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for the Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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

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