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IQOS marketing strategies at point-of-sales: a cross-sectional survey with retailers


Background The point-of-sale (POS) is adapting to marketing restrictions, societal changes and the inclusion of new products, such as heated tobacco products (eg, Philip Morris International’s (PMI) IQOS device and HEETS sticks). We aimed to assess (1) PMI’s influences on IQOS/HEETS POS marketing and (2) the implications of the new legislation (POS display ban and plain packaging) for retailers.

Methods A cross-sectional survey of 43 IQOS/HEETS POS owners/managers in five Israeli cities assessed POS and participant characteristics, marketing strategies, attitudes towards IQOS, and POS implications of the legislation and COVID-19, including industry reactions. Bivariate analysis explored differences between POS selling of the IQOS device versus POS selling of HEETS only.

Results A higher proportion of those carrying IQOS (n=15) (vs HEETS only) had special displays (100% vs 17.9%, p<0.001) and interacted with specific IQOS salespersons (73.3% vs 28.6%, p=0.013). Common promotions were financial incentives based on HEETS sales for retailers (37.5%) and price discounts on HEETS for customers (48.7%). Most indicated positive attitudes towards IQOS (72.1%; eg, ‘less harmful’), opposition to the legislation (62.7%), limited government assistance to implement the legislation (62.8%), and industry provision of display cases and/or signage to comply with the legislation (67.4%).

Conclusion PMI uses similar tactics to promote IQOS at POS as they previously used for combustible products, including direct promotional activities with retailers, and circumvented legislation by using special displays and signage. Governments need to ban these measures and support retailers with clear practical guidance regarding the implementation of marketing restrictions at POS.

  • advertising and promotion
  • tobacco industry
  • non-cigarette tobacco products

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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