Tobacco company files suit against Health Ministry

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March 13, 2017 20:01

Philip Morris chose Israel to be one of the first countries to market iQOS.

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A CUSTOMER holds a Philip Morris iQOS e-cigarette at an iQOS store in Tokyo last year

A CUSTOMER holds a Philip Morris iQOS e-cigarette at an iQOS store in Tokyo last year. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Dubek, Israel’s tobacco manufacturer and importer, filed a suit in the High Court of Justice against the Health Ministry on Monday for showing “favoritism” to the international tobacco company Philip Morris, which is marketing its no-smoke heated- tobacco cigarette iQOS.

Dubek said it is limited in marketing and advertising its own products, while Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman – against the views of public health professionals inside and outside his ministry – allows iQOS to be sold and advertised without limit.

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This laxity will continue, Litzman decided recently, until the US Food and Drug Administration decides what to do about the product.

The sale and marketing of iQOS has been prohibited in the US and other countries until the FDA releases its ruling.

A few days ago, Avir Naki, a nonprofit organization that fights smoking, petitioned Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to revoke Litzman’s authority on all tobacco legislation and regulation because he has shown a “personal connection” to a number of issues relating to tobacco. Litzman met with Philip Morris lobbyists before announcing his decision.

Dubek said the ministry “has ignored blunt violations of the law for restricting advertising and marketing of tobacco products” by Philip Morris, thus carrying out unfair competition. It also charged that the Tax Authority does not levy sales taxes on iQOS and “causes a huge loss of revenue to the state coffers.” Sales taxes constitute 80% of the price of regular cigarettes.

IQOS, Dubek said, claims to be a “less-harmful product” than conventional cigarettes because the tobacco and additional chemicals are warmed but not burned.

But Philip Morris’s claim has not been proven, Dubek said, also complaining that iQOS is not required to carry any health warnings on the package.

Philip Morris chose Israel to be among the first countries to market iQOS, thus turning its population into “guinea pigs” in a “huge experiment for which we will all pay,” the Israel Medical Association’s Society for the Prevention of Smoking and Smoking Cessation said early this year.

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