In July, we reported how PMI was slammed by the Department of Health for encouraging stockists to display posters in store or up in windows. PMI claimed that HNB devices were the same as vape products and should therefore be allowed more leniency than the outright ban placed on cigarette advertising.
Public health minister Steven Brine said: “We have been explicit that the promotion of tobacco products is unlawful - as my letter to Phillip Morris International makes abundantly clear.”
Clearly, PMI believes it can do what it wants when it comes to promoting IQOS, as the latest revelations demonstrate.
Reporters working for the Telegraph are shown in the video at a bar in London's Canary Wharf. Shortly after being introduced to the sales rep, the women are offered free cocktails and free accessories for the IQOS – which is also being given the hard sell at a heavily discounted price.
Then PMI’s rep goes on to encourage the reporters to sign up more of their Square Mile friends to the IQOS website, and promises them a £20 Amazon voucher for each one – with no limit to the amount of vouchers they can claim.
The Telegraph says that it has seen documents proving the existence of a “pyramid-style” incentive scheme for sales reps to earn commission, and this is why rules are being bent.
Tower Hamlets Trading Standards believes PMI is acting in breach of the Tobacco Advertising and Sales Act 2002, and the Council has written to PMI informing them that any repetition of this behaviour will result in prosecution.
Given that PMI’s posters are reported to still be displayed in numerous stores it doesn’t seem likely that the company will be in any hurry to dissuade their reps from continuing to sell hard and sail close to the wind – especially as the Department of Health appears to be reluctant to follow up on the threats contained in Brine’s July letter.
While this is going on, and PMI continue to argue that using a HNB device is the same as vaping, this does nothing but add to the reluctance of tobacco controllers to accept harm reduction as a viable strategy to combat tobacco-related harm.