Anti-tobacco advocates have expressed alarm after Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC), the local affiliate of Philip Morris International Inc, boasted an estimated 75,000 Filipinos switched from smoking cigarettes to IQOS, which they claim is “another” form of addiction.

“Quiting from addiction is different from shifting to another form of addiction. Taking a poison using a different mechanism is still taking a poison,” the Parents Against Vape (PAV) criticized. What is not being said, PAV stressed, is that the design of IQOS, other heated tobacco products (HTPs) and e-cigarettes “unfortunately appeal to the youth.”

“Government should ensure that these products are not marketed and advertised to the youth. Otherwise, we will end up creating new poisonous vices for our children,” the group added. Addiction of Filipino teens to vaping For Child Rights Network the recent industry spin that promotes e-cigarettes as a solution for adult smokers is merely a distraction from the bigger problem caused by the industry itself: the addiction of Filipino teens to vaping. “Let’s not be swayed by the industry’s message that Filipinos have successfully quit smoking cigarettes due to the introduction of heated tobacco products.

The introduction of these products has actually given rise to a more significant problem: teen vape and nicotine addiction. According to the latest Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 1 in 7 Filipino students aged 13-15 use vapes or e-cigarettes,” said Mr. Romeo Dongeto, Child Rights Network Convenor and Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development. Mr. Dongeto said that there is an excessive attribution of the smoking decline to the existence of heated tobacco products when, in reality, it is the substantial contribution of recent tobacco control laws, particularly tax increases, that is driving down smoking prevalence in the Philippines. “Suddenly, they are concerned about people quitting smoking because they now have replacement products. Where were they in encouraging Filipinos to quit when vapes and e-cigarettes didn’t exist?” Mr. Dongeto asked.

Masquerading as public health benefit Meanwhile, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) noted that studies have shown that the use of heated tobacco products (HTPs) may be a youth gateway to cigarette smoking by normalizing tobacco use and making it more likely for young people to start cigarette smoking, undoing years of progress in preventing smoking uptake.

Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo SEATCA Executive Director said that PMFTC is just after increasing their profits and ” ignoring that it continues to sell millions of cigarettes and opposes effective tobacco control measures.” Also, he said, the tobacco industry has a long history of promoting “safer cigarette” innovations, such as cigarette filters and “light/mild” and “low-tar” cigarettes, often mislabeling these products as game-changers in public health despite their ineffectiveness in reducing health risks.

“While HTP users may be exposed to lower concentrations of harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, there is no evidence that this reduces health harms,” Dr. Dorotheo said, reiterating that referring to HTPs as “safer smoke-free alternatives” is irresponsible.” “Magical” claim He also doubted the basis of the number mentioned by PMFTC when it gave its “magical” claim that 75,000 Filipinos switched to its “safer alternative” HTP in the past 3 years. “The number, is far from impressive, as it is dwarfed by proven tobacco control measures (tobacco tax increases, graphic health warnings on tobacco products, and smoke-free policies) that helped 2.9 million Filipinos to quit smoking from 2009 to 2021 despite PMFTC’s opposition and weakening of these measures,” he said.

Contrary to industry claims, HTPs do not help smokers quit or prevent relapse, as shown in a recent study in Japan, which is the world’s largest market for IQOS. Many HTP users are dual users of both HTPs and traditional cigarettes, increasing their risk of harm while doubling industry profits. The group also expressed fear that the claims of “reduced harm” distract from the fundamental problem that tobacco companies are the cause of the tobacco pandemic and their new products are still tobacco, still addictive, and still harmful.

If tobacco companies were serious about helping smokers, Dr. Dorotheo said, they would stop making cigarettes. “If they were genuine about protecting youths from smoking, they would not have sued Balanga City in Bataan to oppose its smoke-free ordinance and tobacco-free generation ordinance that protected Balangueño youths from the scourge of tobacco,” said Dr. Dorotheo as he also urged policymakers, health professionals, and the public to demand accountability and greater transparency from the tobacco industry whenever it claims to be part of the solution to the tobacco problem that it created. In fact, he said, PMI’s own IQOS study neglected to report on 53 of the 93 harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHC) on the US FDA’s HPHC list. PMI’s data also showed significantly higher levels of 56 other chemicals not on the FDA’s HPHC list but found in IQOS emissions compared with cigarette smoke.

Studies have since shown that iQOS still produces smoke, and its emissions are as harmful as cigarette smoke to human health. Still harmful On the other hand, Mr. Dongeto reminded that heated tobacco products still contain tobacco and harmful chemicals and substances, especially nicotine, which is addictive. “We should call out the industry for whitewashing the harmful effects of substances found in heated tobacco products and vapes,” he added as he also lamented that electronic smoking devices, such as HTPs, are marketed in sleek colorful designs, trendy promotional campaigns, and fun, fruity flavors. “By presenting HTPs as a modern, sophisticated alternative to traditional cigarettes, the industry is initiating harm for a new generation of addicts to replace the 8 million smokers that it kills annually,” he said.

The World Health Organization clarified that HTPs are still tobacco products, which remain significantly harmful whether or not they are burned, and that they emit additional chemicals not in tobacco smoke with known and unknown harms to human health.