(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The Israel Cancer Association on Monday castigated the world’s largest international tobacco company – Phillip Morris International – for introducing a non-burning “cigarette alternative.”
After seeing the number of smokers in the Western world decline, Phillip Morris decided to invest huge sums in a new product and employed hundreds of scientists to work on the project.
The device – called Iqos – looks like an electronic, or e-cigarette. But instead of using chemicals, it contains non-burning, liquid tobacco that heated to 350 degrees Celsius.
The heating causes the tobacco to vaporize. The user inhales the nicotine and feels that he is smoking a regular cigarette.
The ICA called for regulation of all tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes. It demanded that all of the products be limited in advertising, marketing, promotion and media sponsorship, including in social media.
It also insisted that local authorities enforce no-smoking laws in public places – including restaurants, bars, event halls, sports stadiums, Jerusalem’s Light Rail stations, railway stations – to prevent non-smokers from being exposed against their will to second-hand smoke and what is now called thirdhand smoke, or residues from chemicals left on surfaces from smoke.
The taxes on electronic alternatives should be just as high as on conventional cigarettes, said the ICA, and all products should be required to show health warnings (preferably graphic ones, which are not yet required by the Health Ministry).
E-cigs first came onto the market in 2007, said the ICA.
Manufacturers specifically targeted young people who wanted to try something new as potential customers. Internet, magazines, TV, radio and sales displays are used to advertise the devices. Ads have tried to portray the products as cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing than yellow stain-causing tobacco.
Various countries have already looked into e-cigs and set policies on their uses, production, sales, marketing and exposure to fumes. In Israel, the ministry has not determined the extent of their use, even though it sponsored the MABAT study on teenage health, which asked about tobacco consumption.
The ministry now says that it “intends to follow up the matter of new tobacco products and prepare suitable regulations on the basis of serious scientific evidence in other countries.”
There are no serious, longterm studies on the health effects of e-cigs, but at least one Israeli baby died after ingesting some of the product’s chemicals.
There are reports that suggest their use encourages youngsters to start smoking.
There is no proof, the ICA said, that the use of e-cigs helps smokers kick the tobacco habit, something that some e-cig manufacturers have claimed.
Public health experts around the world have warned that after years of declining smoking rates, e-cigs have increased the use of addictive tobacco and other electronic alternatives.
The American Cancer Society has declined to recommend alternative cigarettes as being safer, or more effective in helping give up smoking, because those claims have not been proven.
“We must not forget that for decades the tobacco industry lied about the fact that nicotine was addictive and dangerous,” the ICA said. Only in 1996 did the US Food and Drug Administration describe cigarettes as “drug-delivery devices.”