(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The Israel Public Health Physicians Association welcomed on Friday the US Food and Drug Administration advisory committee’s rejection of the claim by tobacco corporation Philip Morris that its iQOS cigarette causes less tobacco-related disease and death than conventional cigarettes.
The scientific panel said that Philip Morris had not shown that reductions in exposure to harmful chemicals are reasonably likely to translate into a measurable and substantial reduction in morbidity or mortality, Reuters said.
The findings of the independent panel were a shock and disappointment to Philip Morris, whose heated-tobacco cigarette is barred from sale by the FDA in the US pending a serious examination of the product. The company, which reportedly invested a decade and more than $3 billion in iQOS, had been seeking FDA approval in an attempt to market them in the US and around the world as a “safer alternative to cigarettes.”
The heated-tobacco cigarette has been sold in Israel for over a year, thanks to the decision by Deputy Health Minister (then health minister) MK Ya’acov Litzman to allow marketing until the FDA officially decides its position. The United Torah Judaism MK and Gur Hassid was caught last year by Channel 2 TV meeting with Philip Morris lobbyists over the product and assuring them that he would not interfere with its sale.
Litzman’s decision to allow the sale of iQOS – which was welcomed by the Gur paper Hamodia and other papers – infuriated and frustrated public health experts, including those inside the ministry who feared speaking out against it.
No comment on whether the ministry will ban sales of iQOS, and no other reaction was issued by Health Ministry spokesman Eyal Basson by press time.
Dr. Hagai Levine, secretary of the Public Health Physicians Association (a branch of the Israel Medical Association), said it was important to remember that the regulatory framework in the US is different and not necessarily appropriate for Israel, where tobacco-control policy lags behind that in most of the developed world and has caused a worrisome rise in the smoking rate. The doctors also feared that young people smoking iQOS would go on to conventional cigarettes.
“The state attorney forced Litzman to treat the product as a tobacco product. Indeed, the initial decision not to treat iQOS as a tobacco product was scandalous and unreasonable. Litzman said he would follow the FDA policy, but in the US, it could not be marketed until after the hearing decided the effects of smoking iQOS,” Levine said.
The Philip Morris spokesman in Israel said on Friday morning that “there is currently no official reaction, but in any case, it is important to emphasize our position that the FDA advisory panel did not say that it was ‘not less dangerous than regular cigarettes,’ but rather that Philip Morris ‘was unable to prove’ that it was less dangerous. In addition, the panel found that there is a ‘significant reduction in toxic substances’ in iQOS compared to regular cigarettes.”
The tobacco company’s stock value dropped by as much as 6.9% before stabilizing 2.5% lower at $107.86, it was reported, and Altria – which operates in the US through a subsidiary – was down 1.7% at $70.38 after earlier falling as much as 5.5%.