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CASAA Takes The Bureau To Task

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association has taken the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to task for its claims about heated tobacco products

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The anti-vape Bureau of Investigative Journalism (the Bureau) has published an article alleging that Philip Morris International is not telling the truth about its heated tobacco products. The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) responded by taking it to task for the lack of evidence3 to support its claims.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s article “Philip Morris misleading the public about nicotine in heated tobacco” makes a number of claims including that IQOS “contains a lot more nicotine than the maker claims”.

The article’s main points:

  • Heated tobacco is touted as a better alternative to cigarettes for smokers, yet new research suggests that one brand contains much more nicotine than claimed
  • A heated tobacco stick used in an Iqos device contains more than 4mg of nicotine, eight times the amount often claimed by maker Philip Morris International
  • Consumers are being given misleading and confusing information by the company, including during live online chats in nine different countries

CASAA commented: “When you write an article criticising a company for misleading consumers about nicotine content, you definitely shouldn't be misleading consumers about nicotine itself. It's not nicotine or tobacco that increases health risk, it's the smoke. The whole point is it's smoke-free.”

The Bureau’s journalists took umbrage and responded: “When you exist to promote ‘effective, affordable, reduced-harm alternatives to smoking’, you definitely shouldn’t be misleading people about journalism. It’s not ignoring the evidence that increases consumer choice, it’s giving them facts. The whole point is it’s evidence-based.”

CASAA pointed out the obvious to The Bureau: “It's your interpretation that PMI is ‘misleading’ consumers, but that’s merely an opinion. You just object to using the emissions standard, although it's actually required in many countries. You only found a few staff who misrepresented ‘emissions’ as ‘content’.

“PMI does not market IQOS as a nicotine addiction treatment or smoking cessation product. It's marketed as an alternative to smoking. There's no benefit for PMI to deceive consumers about nicotine content. In fact, listing higher nicotine may attract MORE consumers.

“The very first point in your article shows bias and misinforms consumers. This is an association fallacy implying that because the product allegedly ‘contains much more nicotine than claimed’, that negates the fact that it's a better alternative to cigarettes for smokers."

“You ‘warn’ consumers that they may be getting ‘more than 4 mg of nicotine’ as though that's a dangerously ‘addictive’ amount, but many FDA-approved, ‘safe and effective’ nicotine gums and lozenges contain 4 mg and nicotine patches typically contain 21 mg.

“It's important for public health to distinguish that it's the smoke from combustible tobacco that kills. Scaremongering statements about nicotine have misled the public to conclude smoking without nicotine or tobacco is safer when smoke is the most dangerous exposure.

“You failed to investigate or report how the differences in smoking behaviours and the phenomenon of self-titration actually might support PMI's statement here, instead leaving it up to the reader to make their own conclusions.

“You surmise that PMI has somehow made up its own ‘modified’ ISO version, without making it clear how their testing allegedly differs from the method you later say is ‘favoured by the EU and used by PMI’.

“WHO guidelines aren't only concerned about ‘emissions’ ISO testing. Like the EU law, WHO prohibits ‘any statement about the amount of certain ingredients’, concerned that would "imply one tobacco product is less harmful than another" (even if it truthfully reduces risks.)

“This entire section is misleading in that it presumes consumers using IQOS as a treatment for nicotine addiction have a reasonable expectation of lower nicotine levels. But, the intended use is as a safer nicotine alternative for adults who cannot or will not quit smoking.

“Finally, this biased conclusion. It's clear throughout the article that PMI is using a valid ISO in the EU and there is no standardized testing or clear universal regulation. Yet you treat this lack of government standards and regulations as PMI ‘misleading consumers’?”

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism failed to respond to any of these points.

Maybe it’s lack of response has something to do with its source of funding?

Our reporting on tobacco is part of our Global Health project, which has a number of funders. Our Big Tobacco project is funded by Vital Strategies” - Vital Strategies is another way of saying billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s $millions.

Once more, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism lets down readers with its shoddy, slanted coverage of important matters.


    Dave Cross avatar

    Dave Cross

    Journalist at POTV
    View Articles

    Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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