Abstract

Background
Communication of the relative health risks of IQOS can attract potential consumers, aiding its commercial success. However, health-related claims need to be used cautiously to avoid inaccuracies and attracting non-smokers. We utilised the live webchat service on the IQOS website to identify information and claims on the relative risks of IQOS made directly to potential consumers in different countries.

Methods
The study was promoted through authors’ networks and conducted between 1st August and 30th November 2020. Participants collected webchat conversation responses to three queries regarding the safety of IQOS relative to cigarettes and e-cigarettes using step-by-step guidance and a pre-designed form. Responses were analysed to identify health-related claims and information provided.

Results
70 webchat attempts were recorded across 27 countries, 54 of which (in 22 countries) were successful webchat conversations. In 48 of these, one or more claims were used to indicate IQOS is safer than cigarettes, such as IQOS is smoke-free, emits less harmful substances, or reduces harm. Four conversations contained statements indicating IQOS is safer than e-cigarettes. Some statements provided were contradictory. Participant age was consistently requested upon accessing the website, but tobacco/nicotine use was not. Other information provided included referral to the 2020 FDA MRTP decision, IQOS or PMI webpages, and claims that IQOS is not risk-free nor a cessation device.

Conclusions
A variety of claims and information on the relative safety of IQOS were used in webchat communications. Response variation highlights that clearer regulation is needed to appropriately control corporate communications via live webchat services.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTobacco Control
Early online date4 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Corporate Communication
  • Heated Tobacco Products
  • Health Claims
  • IQOS
  • Philip Morris International
  • Tobacco Marketing
  • Tobacco

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