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Experts: Tobacco firm’s ‘smoke-free’ promise a smokescreen

Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Published
Modified 13 Mar 2020, 7:31 am

SPECIAL REPORT | Launched in Malaysia in 2018, Philip Morris International's (PMI) “alternative to smoking” device, Iqos, has attracted some 50,000 smokers in Malaysia in its first year, the tobacco giant said.

Part of the company’s “smoke-free” vision of the future, the device is marketed to only emit vapour, helping smokers avoid the detrimental effects of smoking conventional cigarettes, without having to give up nicotine.

The first of its kind to be legally sold in Malaysia, the Iqos and their tobacco inserts Heatsticks or Heet, are regulated like cigarettes.

Regulated as a tobacco product, Iqos and its Heasticks cannot be sold to children nor are they advertised regularly. Each pack comes with a warning label that tobacco kills.

But on social media, the rules are hazy.

On Instagram, where about seven percent of Malaysian users are aged 13 to 17, Malaysian supermodels, race car drivers and celebrities post photos with Iqos devices.

Last year, a music festival in the Klang Valley targeting a youth crowd was branded “Iqos-friendly event” where the devices could be used anywhere, even indoors...

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