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December 20, 2017

Reuters’ exposé about Philip Morris’s clinical trials for IQOS confirm continued unreliability of tobacco industry research

Vital Strategies urges legislators to base policy decisions on high-quality, independent research

(New York, USA) – An exposé published today by Reuters reveals significant concerns about research paid for and used by Philip Morris International (PMI) to promote its IQOS heated tobacco product to consumers, the media and legislators. PMI is asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval to say that IQOS carries a reduced risk of tobacco-related disease. Vital Strategies urges all legislators to treat research funded by PMI with suspicion.  Policy decisions should be based on independent, long-term studies that more accurately assess the true health impacts of heated tobacco products.

A paper published recently by Vital Strategies, Fool Me Twice, detailed how the tobacco industry produced flawed research and paid scientists to hide the truth about tobacco’s harms.

“We’ll probably never know how many people died because they believed the industry’s junk science that claimed low tar and light cigarettes were safer,” said José Luis Castro, Vital Strategies’ President and CEO. “We can’t allow legislators and the public to be fooled again by PMI or its Foundation. PMI doesn’t want a world that’s free from the harms of tobacco. It just wants to protect its profits. Our fight to protect health policy from tobacco industry misinformation and influence isn’t over, it’s just entering a new phase.”

The Reuters exposé reveals that some facilities and researchers used by PMI were not experts in tobacco research, nor did they respect good clinical practices. Ex-PMI scientists raise concerns about the quality of the IQOS research and also state that long-term trials – which are not being undertaken by PMI – are needed to confirm whether or not the product carries a reduced risk to health. This suggests that PMI’s interest is in short-term research designed to support its business objectives, rather than serious research into harm reduction.

Philip Morris is one of four tobacco companies legally obliged to run corrective statements in the U.S.A., confirming that it deliberately misled the public. A Project Syndicate article published today by World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros and the President of Uruguay, Tabaré Ramón Vázquez, warns health advocates and governments not to fall for the tobacco industry’s supposed commitment to a smoke-free world. Uruguay faced costly and unfounded legal action from PMI when it decided to implement strong tobacco control policies that are proven to reduce tobacco use. Many countries face similar legal threats, delaying and derailing policies to improve health. And some tobacco control advocates have complained that their past research is being deliberately misrepresented by PMI and its Foundation, in order to support the Foundation’s arguments. This includes a PMI Foundation-linked paper published in medical journal The Lancet.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health expert, please contact press@vitalstrategies.org.

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