A CUSTOMER holds a Philip Morris iQOS e-cigarette at an iQOS store in Tokyo last year.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman will not set any restrictions on the sale of Philip Morris’s iQOS heated-tobacco, “smokeless” cigarettes until the US Food and Drug Administration sets its policy, even through their sale is in the meantime not permitted in the US.
Litzman has met with lobbyists from Philip Morris without making the meetings public, as required by the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Israel ratified over a decade ago. He was also caught by Channel 2 meeting over a month ago with journalists acting as electronic cigarette company representatives.
When Shoshana Arbeli-Almozlino was health minister in the 1980s and a tobacco company presented a product for marketing in Israel before the FDA decided on it, the minister said her own pharmaceutical division should get it for testing rather than allow its use until US approval. That decision set Israel’s policy on the issue.
The Israel Medical Association and the Israel Cancer Association reacted in anger to Litzman’s announcement about iQOS. They said the ministry was found to prohibit the use of iQOS here until the FDA determines its position.
“The lack of policy formulation and allowing unrestricted product marketing constitutes a reckless policy of a dangerous lack of regulation on a new tobacco product and dangerous,” the two organizations stated. “As we warned, Philip Morris has established facts on the ground. The product is marketed aggressively here, without supervision or regulation, especially via the Internet and mobile phones that are used especially by the young. The apparent limitation for sales to those under 18 only makes iQOS more attractive to young people interested in adult brands,” the IMA and ICA said.
Litzman’s policy thus “immediately endangers the public health. According to the company itself, iQOS cigarettes, while not burning, release vapors that contain toxic chemicals.” Thus the same limitations that are on conventional cigarettes and on e-cigarettes “must be applied to iQOS as well,” they said.
The IMA and ICA concluded that the lack of supervision by the Health Ministry “turns the Israeli public into guinea pigs in a huge and dangerous experiment without informed consent, and all of us will pay for it.”
The ministry did not respond by press time to The Jerusalem Post’
s request for comment.
Also on Wednesday, Litzman, after consulting with ministry professionals who presented to him the principles of legislation in the US and Europe, announced that electronic cigarettes will be liable to the same prohibitions as conventional cigarettes.
Some e-cigarettes consist of chemicals only while others contain tobacco and chemicals, and they burn electronically.
Health authorities here and abroad say they endanger health and have not been proven either safe or being useful to get smokers to kick the habit.
An Israeli child even died from drinking the liquid chemicals.
iQOS reportedly has a small amount of tobacco in them, but the ministry – when asked – did not explain why a tobacco product is not regarded by the ministry as being a cigarette, even though it does not create smoke.
As a result of the decision, the use of electronic cigarettes will be barred in all public places, and their advertising and marketing will be limited, including to minors. In addition, e-cigarette manufacturers – the ministry said – must disclose the contents of their products. The ministry did not reply when asked if No Smoking signs will have to be changed to include warnings on e-cigarettes.
Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov said recently in the Knesset that he favors requiring graphic images on cigarette packets to deter people from buying them, while Litzman has opposed them, saying they are “not esthetic.” The director-general also said he favored prohibition of cigarette advertising in newspapers, but the minister decided against this a few years ago, saying that the media should have both smoking ads together with anti-smoking ads, but he has not taken any action since then to require anti-smoking ads.