(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The world’s largest tobacco company, Philip Morris International, faced an obstacle in Israel that has apparently influenced its position toward its heated-tobacco product iQOS.
Previously, the company asked the US Food and Drug Administration to recognize iQOS as “modified-risk product.”
Last week, Israel’s Justice Ministry notified the company that it accepted the position of three voluntary organizations in Israel that the product is actually a “tobacco product,” and all the restrictions that apply to tobacco products should apply to iQOS.
In parallel, Philip Morris reversed its previous position towards the FDA and now wants iQOS to first be recognized as a “tobacco product.”
The small Society for Progressive Democracy thus “made history,” as the new position will set the definition of the product for deliberations by the FDA.
The Israel Medical Association, the Israel Cancer Association and the small Society for Progressive Democracy thus “made history,” as the new position will set the definition of the product for deliberations by the FDA.
While the Israel Cancer Association and the Israel Medical Association sent letters to the authorities to protest against Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman for preventing restrictions on the sale and marketing of iQOS in Israel, the Society for Progressive Democracy headed by lawyer Shabi Gatenio actually applied to the High Court of Justice and asked for an Injunction againt him.
“It is a story of the little David toppling Goliath, Philip Morris,” commented lawyer Amos Hausner, the chairman of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking.
The limitations that now apply to all tobacco products will include iQOS, such as prohibiting its sale to minors, prohibiting smoking it in all public places where conventional cigarettes may not be smoked, excluding it from advertising in the electronic media and media for children and teens, and other restrictions for which violators are fined.
Under the rules of administrative law, the position of Justice Ministry professionals is binding upon all governmental agencies in Israel, and their position supersedes the one expressed by any political figure – in this case, the health minister.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has yet to decide on a petition by Avir Naki, a voluntary organization that aims to fight smoking, to prohibit Litzman from having any involvement in decisions on tobacco matters.
Dubek, the Israel tobacco producer and importer, has also filed an application in the High Court against Litzman, arguing that he was giving Philip Morris benefits that Dubek did not enjoy.
Hausner said that Philip Morris “officially changed its position here while its application was pending in the FDA, as a negative consequence in Israel might have negatively influenced the company’s position in its deliberations with the US over iQOS. We clearly learn from this case that politicians cannot determine policy on major public health issues like this; they must leave it to ministry professionals to set policy.
It turned out that Litzman was more protective of Philip Morris than the company itself demanded. As to Philip Morris, Hausner said that their products should meet the requirements of professionals and not only of the politicians.”
Commenting on the Justice Ministry decision, Philip Morris Ltd.’s spokesman in Israel said that it would “continue to market iQOS in Israel in a responsible way according to law so that adult smokers would have better alternatives than continuing to smoke cigarettes.”
The ministry said in a statement after the court decision was announced that “while waiting for the FDA’s position, we plan at this stage to place on the product all restrictions on tobacco products regarding marketing, advertising and smoking in public places.”