LIFESTYLE
22/10/2018 10:40 BST

'A Staggering Hypocrisy': Tobacco Company Slammed For Telling UK Smokers To Quit

Philip Morris Ltd wants smokers to swap to e-cigarettes and heated tobacco – but are they much safer?

Tobacco giant Philip Morris has been accused of “staggering hypocrisy” over its campaign urging smokers to quit.

The firm said the campaign, called Hold My Light, is an “important next step” in the company’s path to “ultimately stop selling cigarettes”. But Cancer Research UK said the company is only trying to promote its smoking alternatives such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco.

George Butterworth, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This is a staggering hypocrisy from a tobacco company to promote its own smoking cessation products in the UK while continuing to promote tobacco cigarettes across the world.”

Guseyn Abdullahi / EyeEm via Getty Images

Butterworth said the best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes. “Smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer and we encourage people to switch away completely from smoking, including through the use of e-cigarettes,” he added.

“We would also advise smokers to fully give up and not continue to smoke tobacco whilst using an e-cigarette.”

Peter Nixon, managing director of Philip Morris Limited, said: “There are more options than ever before for smokers to give up cigarettes but often they don’t realise that alternatives, like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco are a better choice than continuing to smoke.

“Our research has shown that smokers want personal support from friends and family if they are to give up cigarettes – and that is what Hold My Light is designed to offer.”

Are e-cigarettes safe?

There is conflicting evidence when it comes to the safety of e-cigarettes and, indeed, heated tobacco products. One 2015 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggested exposure to formaldehyde from e-cigarettes could be five to 15 times higher than from smoking cigarettes.

A separate study by Harvard concluded that e-cigarettes posed a potentially deadly threat, after researchers discovered that 75 per cent of flavoured e-cigarettes contained diacetyl, which has been linked to severe respiratory disease. 

Despite this, the NHS recommends e-cigarettes as a method for people trying to quit smoking on its Smokefree advice website. In 2015, use of e-cigarettes was thought to have helped 18,000 people quit smoking in England.

A Public Health England review of e-cigarettes acknowledges that while vaping might not be 100 per cent safe, most of the chemicals responsible for causing smoking-related diseases are absent and the chemicals that are present pose limited danger.

Expert opinion is that using e-cigarettes is around 95 per cent safer than smoking.

With heated tobacco, however, an independent study found ‘heat not burn’ smokeless tobacco products marketed as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes might not be as harm-free as made out.

A study, shared in the BMJ, analysed a product by Philip Morris called the iQOS and aired concerns over the release of a toxic chemical called fomaldehyde cyanohydrin.

The authors concluded: “This study has shown that the iQOS system may not be as harm free as claimed, and also emphasises the urgent need for further safety testing as the popularity and user base of this product is growing rapidly.”