Tobacco giant Philip Morris has been told that the government may take legal action if it continues to advertise its IQOS product, an electronic device that the company brands as “the new alternative to smoking”.
Health minister Steve Brine has written to the company warning that shop window advertising posters and pop-up displays promoting the product break the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act (TAPA) 2002.
However, Philip Morris said that it believed its promotional activities were legally sound.
Brine’s letter said: “It was claimed by [Philip Morris] … that TAPA does not apply to IQOS as it is not a cigarette; however, to be clear, the legislation applies to all tobacco products, including novel tobacco products.
“It also applies to the indirect promotion of tobacco products by promoting devices that may only be used with tobacco products, such as the IQOS device. I hope the above is clear on the department’s views … and that you will ensure your organisation takes the necessary action with your suppliers, retailers and marketing teams in regards to this.”
In a statement, Brine said “[the government] will not rule out legal action” if the company fails to take the necessary steps.
Philip Morris has spent £3bn in ten years developing the hand-held device, which heats real tobacco to a temperature of 350 degrees Celsius, according to its website. It claims the product is used by 5 million people worldwide.
Philip Morris is seeking an “urgent” meeting with the Department of Health and Social Care to “clarify the concerns.”
Peter Nixon, managing director (UK and Ireland) of Philip Morris, said: “We believe that all of our activities are within the law. Our business is committed to helping smokers switch from cigarettes to better alternatives as fast as possible.”