Press release: New products, old tactics: tobacco industry promotes both smoking and alternatives to smoking, PMI employs “consultant” to promote its heat-not burn product

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Brussels, 30 March 2017- New tobacco products are now being promoted by the tobacco industry, using a “consultant” (Mr Jos Draijer) recruited after a controversial career as a national health representative and European Bureau member for the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). 

On 30th November 2016, Philip Morris International (PMI) launched its new iQOS product in a number of countries including Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom.[i]  PMI claims that iQOS is much less harmful than cigarettes. In December 2016, PMI filed a Modified Risk Tobacco Product application with the US Food and Drug Administration’s Centre for Tobacco Products. The application is believed to be more than 2 million pages long. [ii] PMI is believed to have invested about €2.8 bn into more than a decade of research and development into the product. 

PMI is attempting to position this product as the future of smoking, and claims that “we offer them [smokers] the alternative and we will do everything we can to convince [people] to switch to these products”. [iii] PMI has also claimed that: “PMI scientists, working with the help of external experts, are conducting a wide range of studies to assess our [Reduced Risk Products], ranging from aerosol chemistry to fundamental biology to preclinical and clinical studies… We expect scrutiny and recognize that our data and methods must be assessed by independent scientific experts.”  

But despite PMI’s claims to support independent research, it is in fact resorting to the traditional tobacco industry tactic of paying “experts” to promote their products. In this case, Mr Jos Draijer has been paid as a consultant. Mr Draijer is a former official of the Dutch Department of Health, the Dutch Health representative in European and international meetings from 2005 to 2012, and was the bureau member for the European Region for the FCTC from 2008 and to 2012.[iv] Mr Draijer was a controversial figure in international control, because of his attempt to promote relatively weak guidance on the involvement of the tobacco industry in health policy (Elaboration of guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the Convention), and because of his hostility to the involvement of non-governmental tobacco control and public health organisations in the FCTC process. According to TabakNee, Mr Draijer regards the exclusion of the tobacco industry from the FCTC and wider tobacco control policy as a “costly error” and claims that NGOs "now almost seem to call the shots." [v] 

The Netherlands was a Key Facilitator in the production of draft guidelines for Article 5.3 which calls on Parties to take measures to protect public health policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry, and Mr Draijer was the Dutch representative in the negotiations. The draft he presented had to be extensively rewritten by all the FCTC Partied during the third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the FCTC (Durban, November 2008). Examples of changed text include Principle 1 (“Tobacco products are legal but lethal”, changed to “There is a fundamental and irrevocable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests”), and Principle 2 (“Any interaction with the tobacco industry should serve as a means for exchange of information, but should occur in such a way as to avoid the perception of a real or potential partnership or co-operation resulting from, or on account of, such interaction”, changed to “Parties should interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products”. [vi] 

The Guidelines state that “the involvement of organisations or individuals with commercial or vested interests in the tobacco industry in public health policies with respect to tobacco control is most likely to have a negative effect” and that “Payments, gifts, and services, whether monetary or in kind, and research funding offered by the tobacco industry to government institutions, officials or employees can create conflicts of interest” (Recommendation 4). Ironically, the original draft of these guidelines contained the same text…

Commenting, Florence Berteletti, Director of the Smoke Free Partnership, said: 

Recruiting a former government official and paying him to represent and promote tobacco products to governments and regulators is one of the oldest tricks in the tobacco industry playbook. While this (dis)appointment explains much that happened in past FCTC discussions, we must look forward and call for independent research into these products -- that should inform any future policy. Public health policy-making must not rely on tobacco industry spokespeople promoting its corporate “science”; nor can it accept tobacco industry claims as truth. For now, the only obvious fact is that the tobacco industry attempts to delay and confuse policies – while hedging its profits – by selling both the problem and the alleged solution. 

[i] PMI website, 28 March 2017

[ii] FDA Approval For iQOS To Be A Game Changer For Altria: Forbes 30 Dec 2016

[iii] Philip Morris' vision of cigarette free future met with scepticism: Guardian 30 Nov 2016

[iv] Former top offical Jos Draijer: from Health to PMI:  TabakNee website, article (in Dutch) 25 Jan 2017

[v] ibid 

[vi] Draft version of FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines : final version 

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