A group of regional tobacco control organisations have called out global tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris International for trying to manipulate a group of African journalists through a workshop on its latest "harm reduction" products.
The workshop was for journalists from Anglophone and Francophone African countries which took place in Johannesburg in mid August and was sponsored by Philip Morris International. The workshop was themed “Harm Reduction: Gateway to A Smoke Free Continent?”.
In a statement, the African Tobacco Control Alliance, the Framework Convention Alliance, the Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research, the Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa and the Africa Capacity Building Foundation said they were concerned about the recurrent attempts by the tobacco industry to manipulate the media as it promoted its new technology products in Africa.
The workshop took place in the week after comments for South Africa's amended Draft Tobacco Control Bill closed. The bill aims to regulate the use of electronic cigarettes in the country, among other provisions.
"We consider the tobacco industry’s claims that electronic cigarettes are safe to use, as exaggerated and scientifically unsubstantiated," the statement said.
The group said that the workshop showed how the tobacco industry wanted to influence African media to support its view that the use of new technology tobacco products, also referred to as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS/ENNDS) is safe, and should be promoted as an alternative to cigarettes.
Similar workshops have taken place in the recent past in Grand Bassam(Cote d’Ivoire), Bamako (Mali), and Naivasha (Kenya).
With tobacco control legislative frameworks being put in place in an increasing number of countries, the tobacco industry has intensified its lobbying efforts in Africa. The industry is working hard to shield its new products from tobacco control legislation.
Africa remains the only continent where the tobacco epidemic can be prevented as the prevalence rates is still quite low in several countries and the population is younger than developed countries.
But the main obstacle is the marketing activities of the tobacco industry, which sells its main product, cigarettes, as an "affordable luxury", a sign of modernity and so on.
New products, such as iQOS -- which, incidentally, is not an ENDS product -- is now being promoted in some African countries. These are alibi products. They are far too expensive for the majority of the population, but they allow PMI to offer a so-called "solution" to a problem (nicotine and cigarette addiction) that the company itself is making its own. possible to feed.
Prohibiting all forms of advertising of tobacco products has been identified as the best way to stop the tobacco epidemic before it starts along with tax increases, plain packaging for tobacco products and 100% smoke free public areas.
Want to know more about IQOS: Read Stanton Glantz explanation of how Philip Morris hides data in plain sight on dangers of new heat-not-burn product here.