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Colombian Health Group Files Lawsuit to Block Marketing of IQOS Heated Cigarettes

Statement by Patricia Sosa, Director of Latin American and the Caribbean Programs, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 27, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Following extensive marketing of Philip Morris International’s heated cigarette IQOS across Colombia on billboards, bars and social media, a leading public health group has filed a lawsuit against regulators for failing to protect Colombians from this aggressive tobacco advertising.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in the Administrative Court of Bogota by local public health group Asociación Colombiana de Educación al Consumidor – Educar Consumidores, alleges that the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC) has allowed Philip Morris to promote its heated cigarette IQOS since 2017, despite the fact that tobacco advertising is banned by law in Colombia. The ban on tobacco advertising and promotion has even been ratified by the Constitutional Court of Colombia.

Previously, Educar Consumidores had filed numerous complaints with the SIC regarding the sale and promotion of IQOS to no avail. The public health group asserts that this inaction by the SIC has left Colombian youth and non-tobacco users vulnerable to deceptive marketing of a risky and highly addictive product.

Evidence provided in the lawsuit shows widespread promotion of IQOS at local bars, music festivals, and restaurants as well as through social media content that has been posted by popular social media influencers. The evidence collected in Colombia is similar to the marketing of IQOS seen in other countries.

Reuters recently reported Philip Morris is using young influencers in multiple countries to market its IQOS heated cigarette – a product the company claims is marketed only to adult smokers. This followed a 2018 investigation that revealed all four major tobacco companies work with popular social media influencers to promote combustible cigarettes online. If tobacco companies truly didn’t want to reach non-adults and non-smokers, they wouldn’t be advertising on social media – period.

Philip Morris has a long history of deceiving the public and doing whatever it takes to sell cigarettes to young people, and now the company is doing the same with its heated cigarettes. Governments must ensure that existing protections against tobacco marketing are enforced and include heated cigarettes like IQOS.

Tobacco companies and their deadly marketing tactics remain the single greatest obstacle to curbing the global tobacco epidemic that kills seven million people each year. Without urgent action, tobacco use will kill one billion people around the world this century