Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year (CDC). Despite these staggering numbers, tobacco companies are still fighting to keep consumers smoking under the guise of a “healthy alternative.”
Philip Morris International (PM) is now seeking approval from the FDA for IQOS, a smokeless “heat-not-burn” tobacco device. While this product is already sold in more than 30 countries, PM is trying to sell it as the first “reduced-risk” tobacco product ever sold in the US. The device uses real tobacco in the form of a stick, as opposed to e-cigarettes which use nicotine-laced liquids. Instead of undergoing a combustion process, the tobacco stick is heated by the device only enough to release a nicotine-containing vapor.
With millions of pages of scientific data from clinical trials, PM made a case to the FDA last month with claims of the product being safer and more risk-free compared to other tobacco products. While there was no evidence that the outcome of the experiments presented was manipulated or falsified, former co-workers and employees of PM have described several irregularities involving the clinical trials (Reuters).
In January, an FDA advisory panel met as part of a test meeting to discuss whether the device should be marketed in the US. After meeting for two days, the panel decided that the long-term health effects of this new device are still unknown and rejected PM’s statements on this product. It is yet to be seen if the FDA will follow the panel’s advice.
With this new product, PM is ignoring the main danger of tobacco – nicotine. They are misleading tobacco consumers as well as non-smokers and adolescents into believing this is a healthy product. Many critics also worry that the slick packaging and marketing around IQOS seems more geared toward attracting youth than helping wean longtime smokers off cigarettes.
WellShare International’s East African Smoke-Free Program (EASFP) helps reduce the harm caused by tobacco companies like PM by providing innovative community awareness and health education to children, youth, and adults in the Somali and East African community of Minnesota. To find out more about this program, click here.