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NOT PEER REVIEWED
We thank Mr. Clive Bates (1) and Dr. Moira Gilchrist (2) for their reconsideration of our work (3) and previous response where we corrected some errors (4). We also reiterate that all data informing our Industry Watch are publicly available at Tobacco Watcher (https://tobaccowatcher.globaltobaccocontrol.org/) for anyone to analyze. As with any analyses of observational data, there are limitations and we do not disagree with some of the limitations that Gilchrist and Bates point out in our analyses (as we addressed nearly all of these in our previous response (4)). However, we remain unchanged in our conclusion that, as the title of our initial article stated, “Philip Morris International used the e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak to market IQOS heated tobacco” (3).
While statistical analysis indicated a correlation between (a) PMI’s public statements regarding EVALI and their IQOS brand of heated tobacco posted to their corporate “media center” (5) and (b) trends in news coverage of EVALI and IQOS, our primary assertion is that PMI used EVALI to market IQOS. The necessary and sufficient analysis to substantiate this assertion is reporting what PMI publicly claimed, which we did by analyzing the statement made by PMI which promoted IQOS through mentioning, contrasting or describing it along with EVALI and/or vaping.
The full text...
The full text of the PMI’s public statement is available in the appendix of our original piece (the version available presently on the PMI website has been changed) and we analyze excerpts to make our case below.
PMI’s statement 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].” As we previously argued, some readers (especially novice consumers) can interpret this as implying the FDA endorses IQOS and such statements are not allowed. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibits ‘any expressed or implied statement...that either conveys, or misleads or would mislead consumers into believing that [a tobacco] product is approved by the Food and Drug Administration’ (ACT 21 U.S.C. § 331(tt)). The same “appropriate for the protection of public health” statement also implies that IQOS is safer than vaping, a claim disallowed by the FDA.
While Bates and Gilchrist may still object to our assertions that PMI’s intent in publishing their statement was to promote IQOS using EVALI, this objection contrasts with public statements PMI executives have made that are perhaps even clearer in their intent. For example, a Wall Street Journal article began “tobacco giant Philip Morris International Inc. says vaping fears in the U.S. should give a boost to the recent launch of its IQOS smoking alternative” and cited PMI executives discussing how EVALI could be a boon for IQOS promotion just days after PMI published the materials we studied (6).
Bates and Gilchrist may similarly still object that other events (such as the failed merger talks between Altria and PMI (7)) may be responsible for news coverage of IQOS and EVALI. However, generating earned media about an issue is not a one-shot game. Any public relations expert could attest that a multi-modal strategy is required to get an issue in the news media agenda including a media statement, follow-up interviews, case studies, activations, integrations, etc.
Our assertion is that the EVALI outbreak was used by PMI as part of an overall strategy to promote IQOS - a fact we discovered in our Industry Watch piece. For example, the Irish Times reported that PM had called off merger talks with Altria, “…after it became apparent the US government crackdown on vaping could have a negative impact given Altria’s stake in Juul.” André Calantzopoulos, PMI’s chief executive, said that they had decided to focus on its launch of IQOS, which was not a vaping product (8) --thereby again leveraging EVALI to promote its new product.
We echo our previous call for the FDA to investigate the statement PMI published and subsequent news coverage for compliance and if a violation has occurred appropriate regulatory actions be taken. We call on the tobacco control community to invest in surveillance of industry speech and research on the potential impacts of industry speech that can inform additional regulations governing marketing channels such as websites, online news sources and other digital media.
NOT PEER REVIEWED
Replication attempts are one of the self-correcting mechanisms of science, and we thank the Authors for their response to our concerns and their attempt to replicate aspects of their study . Regrettably, they have failed to adequately address the central point raised in our letter of 23rd April 2021, namely that the title and conclusions of their original Article are patently invalid and have no basis in fact or evidence . Instead of strengthening their argument in support of the Article’s findings and conclusions, the Authors’ response considerably weakens them. Strikingly, the Authors reveal several new and serious issues and yet maintain that their “principle finding is unchanged”.
The Authors acknowledge that they were unable to replicate an important aspect of their original analysis, namely that a Philip Morris International (PMI) News Article  published on its website (falsely described as a “press release”) was “republished […] in 14 additional news outlets”. In their response, they note that “Our original assertion that there were 14 duplicate articles is not supported by our replication analysis”. This failure to replicate a key finding—in their own proprietary database, which several of them co-developed—is concerning. The Authors provide no explanation for the irregularity. Notably, on 20th April 2021, we were able to source these 14 articles in Tobacco Watcher since they were clearly mar...
The Authors acknowledge that they were unable to replicate an important aspect of their original analysis, namely that a Philip Morris International (PMI) News Article  published on its website (falsely described as a “press release”) was “republished […] in 14 additional news outlets”. In their response, they note that “Our original assertion that there were 14 duplicate articles is not supported by our replication analysis”. This failure to replicate a key finding—in their own proprietary database, which several of them co-developed—is concerning. The Authors provide no explanation for the irregularity. Notably, on 20th April 2021, we were able to source these 14 articles in Tobacco Watcher since they were clearly marked as “additional coverage” of the PMI News Article. Of the total, 5 of the “duplicate articles” were no longer accessible online and none of the remaining 9 mentioned IQOS at all. All of them were reporting on the EVALI outbreak and flavor ban proposals, a fact that we raised in our April letter to the Authors.
The Authors note that Tobacco Watcher is “a dynamic resource with continuous data collection and processing”. We could not find any information about the computational environment of the database, nor does there appear to be any public information about factors that can impact reproducibility and replicability. Specifically, we could not find any published information about how it collects, processes, and analyzes data, how it is version controlled and what data management plans are in place. However, a poster presentation by some of the Authors indicates that media articles are “automatically coded” using “natural language processing, trained on human-coded data” . It is therefore difficult to understand why results relating to media articles from 2019—generated from an automatic coding process—could abruptly change over the course of two months in 2021. Of course, it is entirely plausible that the 14 articles had been falsely coded, and that this error was manually addressed at some point between April 20th and June 10th, 2021. The Authors should explain if this was the case, or whether changes to the underlying Tobacco Watcher algorithms caused the change—and if so, how. They should also provide an explanation of why they remain confident in the rest of their trend analyses, given the apparent instability of Tobacco Watcher over time.
Because of the Authors’ failure to replicate this important aspect of their study, there is no valid evidence to show any direct link between the PMI News Article and the increase in media coverage of IQOS and EVALI. The Authors’ invalid assumption that the PMI News Article was “republished” was presumably relied upon to support their title and conclusions and yet the evidence for this has now been shown to be nonexistent—not just by our analysis, but also by the Authors’ subsequent failure to replicate their initial finding.
Confounding Factors Ignored:
Given that the Authors have now shown that they do not have any evidence to support a direct, causal relationship between the PMI News Article and subsequent news coverage including both the terms IQOS and EVALI, potential confounders become central to the question of whether their title and conclusions are supported or not. Whilst they now concede that their evidence merely demonstrates that a causal relationship is “plausible”, they continue to ignore or dismiss other more likely explanations. Many confounding factors were laid out in our April letter—with sources beyond those emanating solely from PMI—and they provide important information about the news media environment that could credibly have caused a rise in articles mentioning IQOS and EVALI (including in particular the official press releases  by PMI and Altria on 25th September 2019—announcing that their proposed merger talks were over and that the companies would focus on launching IQOS in the U.S.— as well as a press release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control related to EVALI). Generally, in epidemiology, sociology and other fields, there are at least three main criteria that should be met in order to establish a causal relationship: the cause occurs before the effect; the cause and the effect covary; and a lack of plausible alternative explanations . By dismissing the most plausible explanations for the increase in media coverage, and failing to provide any credible alternative evidence to explain their hypothesis, the overall analysis and conclusion presented by the Authors fails to meet these criteria for causality.
Attempt to Shift the Burden of Proof:
The Authors make logical errors in defense of their Article. They state that “PMI has not provided any verifiable disclosure about how they circulated these materials [the PMI News Article] beyond their publication and availability on internet search engines and social media”. Any perceived lack of disclosure on the part of PMI does not render the Authors’ claims any more valid. To the contrary, the burden of proof is on them to provide evidence for their assertions. In the three months since we first wrote to the Authors to express our concerns, it would have been perfectly possible for them to: (a) list which news articles actually refer to the PMI News Article and/or use the phrases ‘IQOS’ AND ‘EVALI’ (rather than ‘vaping’ and ‘illness’, which are not identical search terms); and (b) rapidly and independently verify whether any of the journalists writing about both IQOS and EVALI had seen the PMI News Article by simply asking them.
Unsubstantiated, Yet Definitive Language:
The title “Philip Morris International used the e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak to market IQOS heated tobacco” is a statement purporting to be factual. However, the Authors now state that their original findings and conclusions are merely “plausible” and admit “we cannot know PMI’s intent”. Plausibility is not a statement of fact or truth. Instead, it implies that an argument is not fully formed, appears specious, superficially fair or reasonable, but in fact could be either right or wrong. As such, the title and other conclusory allegations in the Article are—by the Author’s own admission—not supported. Having ignored or discounted evidence that makes the Author’s conclusions implausible, the final paragraph of their response makes clear that in the absence of evidence, their conclusion rests solely on the Author’s distrust of the industry.
In summary, the conclusion that “Philip Morris International used the e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak to market IQOS heated tobacco” can be disproven using the authors’ own tool, an analysis method that actually takes into account concomitant news events, the Authors’ acknowledgment that they failed to replicate an important aspect of their findings, and their concession that their title is merely “plausible”. The entire premise of the EVALI/IQOS Article is patently invalid and substantial revision or retraction of this paper remains urgently warranted.
 https://www.qeios.com/read/NLZDBR (see supplementary data file)
 https://www.pmi.com/media-center/news/lung-illnesses-associated-with-use... (Note: this News Article was published on 24th September 2019. The Authors response inaccurately states a publication date of 24th September 2021)
 Unlike official press releases circulated to news agencies via press services, which reach more than a hundred thousand news outlets worldwide instantly and directly (see https://services.businesswire.com/public-relations-services/press-releas...), the PMI News Article was only published on PMI.com and via our social media accounts, and as such would only have received organic traffic.
 e.g., Chambliss, Daniel & Schutt, Russell. (2018). Making Sense of the Social World: Methods of Investigation.
NOT PEER REVIEWED
The authors’ response published on 14 July 2021 is far from satisfactory and implausibly asserts that “Our original findings and conclusions remain plausible” 
The original study  uses a media analysis to make a claim that a statement made by the tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI) about an outbreak of lung disease in the US  was a marketing ploy for its heated tobacco product, iQOS. At the time, the lung injury outbreak was falsely attributed by many to nicotine vaping. Heated tobacco products are an alternative to nicotine vaping for smokers looking for a low-risk alternative to smoking.
I will now list some of the problems with this claim.
1. The research findings do not support the headline claim
The study title contains a strong and unqualified assertion of cynical opportunism on the part of the company. The new formulation that findings "remain plausible" does not justify the confidence in the assertion made in the title. "Plausible" is a reasonable basis for choosing a hypothesis to investigate, but a far from sufficient basis for drawing an aggressive conclusion. The authors do not seem to dispute the technical or factual accuracy of the statement about iQOS and EVALI made by PMI. Their allegation is about malign motives and, as such, it should be a cause for caution and a high standard of evidence.
2. No specific articles were provided to substantiate the...
2. No specific articles were provided to substantiate the claim
The headline finding is not, however, even remotely plausible. The company has made it clear that it made its iQOS-EVALI statement available passively for information purposes. If it had generated even one story among 384 the authors say that matched their keyword search in the 30 days after publication, the authors could have produced it. If they had a good case and wanted to avoid a retraction, they could have looked through these results (or to save time, articles published in the two weeks after PMI's statement) and shown at least some articles clearly derive from the statement. Though searching only with Google, I have been unable to identify a single article. That doesn't mean there aren't any, but it's not me making the allegations. The authors are making the allegations and the burden of evidence is with them. They should now respond with examples of articles that support their critique and publish the list of 384 articles captured in their search as a supplementary file that is open to anyone to examine
3. Confounding by other news is a fatal problem for this study
The problem of confounding by other news related to the company, product and sector at around the same time is overwhelming. PMI published its iQOS-EVALI statement on 24 September 2019 . This period coincided with; the end of merger talks between Altria and PMI on 25 September ; also on the same day, Juul announced the departure of its CEO and new corporate practices (Juul is part-owned by Altria) ; a new iQOs product was launched by PMI on 26 September ; there was an ongoing controversy with high news value developments on a lung injury outbreak in the United States, which was at the time often falsely attributed to nicotine vaping. For example, a significant CDC press release on 27 September .
4. Many news media will have covered several issues at once
The timing in question was a crisis period for products and companies making low-risk alternatives to cigarettes. It will have generated many news pieces that would have covered specific stories but also rounded up the other news. For example, Reuters reported both the PMI-Altria merger news and Juul restructuring in the same piece on 25 September 2019 with references to both lung injures and to iQOS, but without any reference to PMI's 24 September 2019 statement. 
5. The study method has no credible approach to confounding
Much of the response seems to be devoted to discussing sloppy though trivial errors in the original paper. This is a distraction from addressing the fundamental flaw, on which the response has relatively little to say. Without some sort of strategy to address confounding by other news and thereby to isolate from the signal (of PMI cynical opportunism) from the cacophonous noise of the news flow at the time, the authors have no basis for their claim. On top of this, the failure to produce a single article that appears to be derived in whole or even in part from the allegedly cynical communication suggests the authors have nothing.
6. Failure to put findings to the company
There is no sign here that the authors contacted the company or made any efforts to verify their story or check for alternative explanations. Why not? Why is it acceptable to avoid this most basic of journalistic practices simply because the authors are writing in an academic journal and about an organisation they do not like?
Just because the object of this research is the tobacco industry, it doesn't mean scientific standards or research and investigative ethics should be jettisoned. Precisely because the target of this research is a tobacco company, it makes a good test of scientific integrity and ‘white hat bias’. 
“White Hat Bias is bias leading to distortion of research-based information in the service of what may be perceived as righteous ends.”
. Ayers JW, Leas EC, Dredze M, Zhu SH, Cohen JE. Our original findings and conclusions remain plausible, Authors' response. Tobacco Control. 14 July 2021. https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2021/04/15/tobaccocontrol-2...
. Ayers JW, Leas EC, Dredze M, Caputi TL, Zhu SH, Cohen JE. Philip Morris International used the e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak to market IQOS heated tobacco. Tob Control 2021 https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2021/04/15/tobaccocontrol-2...
. PMI, Lung illnesses in the U.S. associated with the use of vaping products: The facts. Originally published 24 September 2019
. PMI, Philip Morris International Inc. and Altria Group, Inc. End Merger Discussions, 25 September 2019.
. Juul Labs, Juul Labs names new leadership, outlines changes to policy and marketing, 25 September 2019
. PMI, Philip Morris International Inc. Launches IQOS 3 DUO, 26 September 2019 https://www.pmi.com/media-center/press-releases/press-release-details/?n...
. CDC, THC Products May Play a Role in Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-cigarette Use, or Vaping, 27 September 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0927-thc-vaping.html
. Reuters, Juul boss exits in vaping crisis as Philip Morris, Altria axe merger talks, 25 September 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-altria-m-a-philipmorris-idUSKBN1WA1DY
. The concept originates with: Cope MB, Allison DB. White Hat Bias: Examples of its Presence in Obesity Research and a Call for Renewed Commitment to Faithfulness in Research Reporting. Int J Obes (Lond) 2010;34(1):84. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2815336/
NOT PEER REVIEWED
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...
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 articles is not supported by our replication analysis.
We recognize that for any observational data analysis there are alternative explanations. However, Gilchrist’s alternative explanations are debatable. First, she argues the materials published by PMI on EVALI and IQOS (3) were not a “press release” and therefore could not have engendered a change in media coverage. We now refer to the materials published by PMI on EVALI and IQOS as a “public statement” published on PMI’s website. Yet, PMI has not provided any verifiable disclosure about how they circulated these materials beyond their publication and availability on internet search engines and social media, a concern we raised in our study (2). Regardless, PMI’s public statement was potentially consumed and amplified by other media makers. Second, she assumes the increase in news coverage was due to a PMI publication entitled “Philip Morris International Inc. and Altria Group, Inc. End Merger Discussions” (4) which does not mention EVALI. While a sizable percentage of the news articles we studied mention the merger, their inclusion of IQOS and EVALI suggests the possibility of additional source material for these stories. It is plausible that information from the published materials we studied tying IQOS and EVALI and the larger merger story were discussed in tandem.
There were factual errors in our report that we missed during the copy edit of our piece: the date of PMI’s materials being published was misstated (25 versus 24 September), the date of another reference was misstated, and references were misordered. Additionally, the date we submitted our piece was misstated due to a production system issue created by a delay in submitting the revised version. Last, in light of PMI stating that the 25 September publication was not a press release, the article has been amended accordingly. We have provided Tobacco Control with an errata to correct these errors. However, the principal conclusion of our work was unaffected by any error.
While we can measure the potential spillover effect of published claims, we cannot know PMI’s intent. It is paramount that the earned media strategies of the tobacco industry come under closer inspection. The tobacco industry has used varied tactics to sow misimpressions that favor them and their products, a fact well documented in both the scientific literature and courts of law (5); earned media campaigns may be yet another.
1. Gilchrist M. Study alleging Philip Morris International used the EVALI outbreak to market IQOS requires substantial methodological revision and further peer review, or retraction. Tob Control Rapid Response.
2. Ayers JW, Leas EC, Dredze M, et al. Tob Control. Epub ahead of print: doi:10.1136/ tobaccocontrol-2021-056661.
3. Philip Morris International. Lung illnesses associated with use of vaping products in the US. Available: https://www.pmi.com/media-center/news/lung-illnesses-associated-with-use... [Accessed 10 Mar 2021].
4. Philip Morris International. Philip Morris International Inc. and Altria Group, Inc. End Merger Discussions. https://philipmorrisinternational.gcs-web.com/static-files/78a6afb3-107d... Accessed 11 June 2021.
5. Ong EK, Glantz SA. Constructing "sound science" and "good epidemiology": tobacco, lawyers, and public relations firms. Am J Public Health. 2001;91.
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 
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...
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 press and would likely include a discussion of consequences for iQOS.
So, an analysis that tries to measure media interest in PMI and iQOS for cynical publicity purposes at that time would be heavily confounded by other unrelated but newsworthy developments concerning the same company and product. A check of the press releases by the company should have raised the alarm. PMI also states that it did not seek any publicity for its safety notice about iQOS, which PMI says the authors:
"falsely describe as a “press release”, despite it never being published through a press release distribution service"
Now that it has been pointed out, it is quite clear that a serious error has been made here that undermines the foundations of the study and renders the allegation made in the title baseless. The simple way to deal with this is to acknowledge the error, retract the article, apologise, and resolve to be more careful in future. That should take a couple of hours, not several months and there would be no shame in it. That this has not happened is troubling.
 Moira Gilchrist (PMI) Review of: Philip Morris International used the e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) outbreak to market IQOS heated tobacco. Qeios. [https://www.qeios.com/read/NLZDBR}
NOT PEER REVIEWED
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 (TobaccoWatcher.org), 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 TobaccoWatcher.org.
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...
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 Announcement). The release noted that “the companies have agreed to focus on launching IQOS in the U.S.” PMI is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and is therefore subject to the rules of the NYSE and the Securities and Exchange Commission, including requirements for the disclosure of material events such as the PMI/Altria Announcement. We estimate that during a date range similar to that used by the authors, of the total number of stories retrieved using the authors’ search terms, >85% were reporting on the above noted PMI/Altria Announcement. The authors failed to mention this and other confounders in their discussion.
The authors state that “the original PMI press release (sic) was republished (including editing or revisions to make the republication consistent with the publisher’s format) in 14 additional news outlets.” We performed a full text review of the 14 articles mentioned and of those that were still accessible, none mentioned IQOS. The authors’ conclusion that “PMI capitalised on EVALI by using an earned news media strategy to market their IQOS brand of heated tobacco for free across scores of news outlets that reached millions of readers. This marks the first known case where a tobacco company used the EVALI outbreak to promote tobacco products” is therefore completely unsupported by their own data.
These facts, and other errors detected in this article, were communicated to the authors on 23rd April 2021. In summary, we believe that the article is unreliable, and that urgent substantial revision or retraction is warranted to prevent other studies citing the currently published inaccuracies.
(1) https://philipmorrisinternational.gcs-web.com/static-files/78a6afb3-107d... Accessed 5th May 2021
NOT PEER REVIEWED
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.