These last few months, tobacco manufactures have seen a global drop in tobacco sales. To combat this, Big Tobacco has chosen to focus on alternatives to traditional cigarettes. In this field, Philip Morris’ IQOS tobacco-heating device has benefitted from the most publicity, but a recent marketing campaign has just been halted.
Suspicious relationships between social media influencers and tobacco giants were already criticized last year. An international investigation carried out by professor Robert V. Kozinets revealed some of Big Tobacco’s most insidious techniques, wherein popular influencers on Instagram were paid for disguised and illegal tobacco advertising.
A new investigation by Reuters confirms that Philip Morris International continues these dubious techniques. In order to reach young people, the manufacturer chose IQOS ambassadors to advertise on various social networks. The only problem: some of them are under 25 years old, which is the company’s minimum legal age to carry out these types of campaigns.
Teenagers as a primary target
Among these ambassadors is the Russian influencer Alina Tapilina, who was 21 years old when she received money from Philip Morris. She was a major IQOS promoter, especially for young people who were unaware of its dangers. In the face of the controversy, Philip Morris has decided to suspend its IQOS influencer campaign.
The question of tobacco advertising targeting young people is a particularly sensitive one in this day and age. Accused of encouraging young people to smoke, the company could draw the ire of the FDA. Protecting minors from tobacco (and its alternatives) has become the primary goal for the American organization.
Let’s not forget, however, that IQOS is in no way comparable to e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to traditional smoking. Indeed, no study has yet proven that the IQOS is in fact safe.